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1 Moving Your Numbers Five Districts Share How They Used Assessment and Accountability to Increase Performance for Students With Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement Cover In collaboration with: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) Supported by: U.S. Office of Special Education Programs 2

2 About Us The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) was established in 1990 to provide national leadership in designing and building educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs). Since its establishment, NCEO has worked with states and federal agencies to identify important outcomes of education for students with disabilities, and to bridge general education, special education, and other systems as they work to increase accountability for results of education for all students. NCEO works in collaboration with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). NCEO initiated Moving Your Numbers as part of its work to disseminate relevant information, provide technical assistance, and foster shared learning and networking activities that build on the expertise of others to benefit all children. Moving Your Numbers is coordinated through funding by NCEO to the University of Dayton (Columbus Office) in Ohio. The leadership of NCEO thanks the districts featured in this work, which include the Bloom Vernon (Ohio) Local Schools, Brevard (Florida) Public Schools, Gwinnett County (Georgia) Public Schools, Lake Villa (Illinois) School District #41, and the Wooster (Ohio) City Schools. Without the commitment and willingness to share on the part of these districts, this work would not be possible. In addition to the districts mentioned above, NCEO acknowledges and thanks the following members of the advisory/work group who spent countless hours guiding and contributing to the development of this work: Stephen Barr, Ed.D, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Special Education, Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Jefferson City, Missouri Candace Cortiella, Director, The Advocacy Institute, Washington, DC Ben McGee, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Counseling & Special Education, Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio Brian McNulty, Ph.D., VP, Leadership Development, The Leadership and Learning Center, Englewood, Colorado Robert Reece, Technical Specialist, Center for Special Needs Populations, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio Don Washburn, Director, Ohio Leadership Advisory Council, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Columbus, Ohio NCEO oversaw all aspects of this work through the leadership of Rachel Quenemoen, NCEO Senior Research Fellow, and Martha Thurlow, NCEO Director. Dr. Deborah Telfer, Project Director, University of Dayton (Columbus Office), wrote this publication. She also coordinated the development and review work with NCEO and the advisory/work group, with assistance from Allison Glasgow, University of Dayton (Columbus Office). The document should be cited as: Telfer, D.M. (2011). Moving your numbers: Five districts share how they used assessment and accountability to increase performance for students with disabilities as part of district-wide improvement. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Photographs used in this publication have been provided courtesy of the districts featured, the Ohio Department of Education, and the Ohio Center for Deafblind Education. For additional information about Moving Your Numbers, visit movingyournumbers.org. NCEO is supported primarily through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326G050007) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Additional support for targeted projects, including those on ELL students, is provided by other federal and state agencies. The Center is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration in the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. 3

3 MOVING YOUR NUMBERS Five Districts Share How They Used Assessment and Accountability to Increase Performance for Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement Table of Contents About Us Inside Front Cover Why We Support This Work 3 IntroduCTion 4 DistriCT Achievement Profiles Bloom Vernon Local Schools, Ohio 7 Lake Villa School District #41, Illinois 17 Wooster City Schools, Ohio 29 Brevard Public Schools, Florida 43 Gwinnett County Public Schools, Georgia 55 What MaTTers Most: Key PraCTices Guide Center Insert References & Resources Inside Back Cover 1

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5 Why We Support This Work From Martha Thurlow, Director, NCEO Since 1990, the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) has provided national leadership in designing and building educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs). Since its establishment, NCEO has conducted needs assessment and information gathering on the participation and performance of students with disabilities in state and national assessments and educational reform efforts, has provided technical assistance and information dissemination support through a variety of forums, has assisted states in continuing to meet the challenges of collecting comprehensive, accurate, and consistent data on the participation and performance of students with disabilities, and has worked to build the leadership capacity and expertise of others to improve educational outcomes for all children. During the intervening years, it has become more and more apparent that the best strategy for improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities is to focus more attention and resources on improving instructional practices in the regular classroom for all students. Moving Your Numbers features the work of five districts that have done just that by using assessment and accountability to change the dialogue from individual and often isolated efforts to more collective and strategic action for improving instructional practice and student learning on a district-wide basis. Each of the districts featured from Bloom Vernon with fewer than 1,000 children in rural Appalachia Ohio to urban Gwinnett County Georgia with more than 162,000 students has a we can and we must do it attitude where adults believe that their actions and those of their colleagues make the greatest difference in student learning. High expectations have replaced excuses, and old notions that have limited opportunities for students because of assumptions about poverty or disability have been replaced with relentless determination to guarantee that every student is prepared for life after school. State education agencies play a critical role in setting the stage for the kind of work described in Moving Your Numbers. We believe state education leaders are committed to creating a public education system that prepares every child for lifelong learning, work, and citizenship. They can provide decisive leadership and collective state action needed to assist every district in preparing students, regardless of economic circumstance, race/ethnicity, or disability, who are ready to succeed as productive members of society. Moving Your Numbers provides insights into the kind of leadership and practices that should be supported by states as they redefine their organizations, increasing their own capacity to transform public education in their states. We hope that you take the time to read these stories, understanding that these districts have not arrived at the solution. Instead, read with the understanding that while there are no silver bullets inherent in this work, there are certain practices that, when coupled with hard work, dedication, and the absolute refusal to give up on any child, have contributed to the districts ability to move their numbers on behalf of all children. From Bill East, Executive Director, NASDSE Over the past decade, the focus on subgroup reporting under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has fostered a new understanding that schools and school districts need to focus on the progress of ALL students for their schools to be successful. That is a powerful message that the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) supports. I am pleased that the National Center on Educational Outcomes has gathered stories of the five districts featured on its Moving Your Numbers website that provide concrete examples of how successful districts have improved achievement for all of their students, including those with disabilities. We encourage special educators to mine these stories for their practical strategies and inspiration that can help schools and districts move the numbers to ensure that all students are successful. 3

6 IntroduCTion In Moving Your Numbers, five districts with vastly different demographics share their journey in using assessment and accountability as an impetus for positive change. In each case, assessment data were not held up as the reason why teachers couldn t teach or children couldn t learn beyond a narrow focus on teaching to the test. Instead, each district used the increasing demand for accountability for all students and groups of students to change the conversation and practice across the district, moving their numbers in a positive direction for all children as a result. In each district, shared responsibility for student success involved shifting from a departmental or programmatic orientation to a more collaborative organization where adults at all levels of the education enterprise work together to build each other s capacity around the common goal of supporting the learning of all students and student groups at significantly higher levels. Assessment/accountability data were used in every case as a tool for analysis and action, informing the system. The notion of monitoring was redefined from a heavy-handed gotcha to a joint responsibility for continually gauging progress and holding each other accountable for reaching common goals. Fear and isolated practice were replaced with collective, open dialogue among adults across the system. The preservation of special education as a separate silo also gave way to a culture more characterized by inquiry and organizational learning where adults from all levels of the organization understood how their daily responsibilities were related to district goals for improving student learning. At each level, the fundamental questions became more about building the capacity of others in the organization to support higher student learning, while addressing gaps in student performance became the collective work of the adults, regardless of their role or title. The achievement gap referred not only to gaps in the performance of subgroups against grade-level standards, but also to the performance of all students against more rigorous, international standards. Equally important was the realization that the achievement gap was related to an implementation gap, spurring the district to establish structures for fully implementing, and monitoring the degree of implementation, of core work related to instruction and achievement. In each of the districts featured, special education students were not viewed as the group that caused the district to fail to make adequate yearly progress, but rather as the group whose instructional needs caused the district to rethink priorities, thus putting in place practices that elevated the quality of instruction for all students. Assumptions. Several assumptions underlie this work and are provided in the sidebar above. They challenge presumptions that still too often persist today and that limit opportunities to learn for students with disabilities and other high need youngsters through a belief that children, once labeled, cannot learn, or be expected to learn, challenging content aligned with grade-level standards. The assumptions underlying this work assert that students receiving special education services are as different from each other as are any other group of people, that such students must be able to access ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING MOVING YOUR NUMBERS Successful outcomes (including college and career readiness) for students receiving special education services requires their inclusion in standards-based reform efforts and their participation in statewide assessment and accountability systems. Improving the educational outcomes of students receiving special education services, as for any other student group, requires a sustained focus on teaching and learning, aligned actions across the district, and continuous monitoring of the degree of implementation of such actions to assess the impact on student learning. Consistent, high quality implementation of effective practices is a challenge for many districts. Students receiving special education services are as different from each other as the members of any other group; assuming pre-determined levels of achievement based on disability status limits these students opportunity to learn and diminishes the collective responsibility of adults to provide high quality instruction aligned with grade-level content to these students. This work, undertaken by the National Center on Educational Outomes, is not intended to tell people what to do. Rather, it is designed to showcase the work of these districts as an impetus for encouraging people at all levels of the education enterprise to examine what they do and the degree to which their collective actions are making a positive difference for all students, including those identified as special education students, English Language Learners, and other children often characterized as high need. While the conclusions provided through this work are limited to the districts featured, it should be noted that these districts share many of the same demographics and characteristics of large numbers of districts across the country. 4

7 standards-based instruction in meaningful ways, and that it is the responsibility of the district to provide the kind of focused instruction and opportunities for shared learning that allow every student to achieve at higher levels. It is also the responsibility of state education agencies to support all districts, schools, and teachers in affecting the learning of all students in significantly different ways. Essential Practices. While each district featured in Moving Your Numbers had its own way of organizing for accelerated improvement, each of them implemented a set of practices that was very similar. Evidence suggests that these six practices (listed below), when used in an aligned and coherent manner, are associated with higher student achievement: 1 1. Use data well; 2. Focus your goals; 3. Select and implement shared instructional practices (individually and as a teacher team); 4. Implement deeply; 5. Monitor and provide feedback and support; and 6. Inquire and learn (at the district, school, and teacher team level). All six practices are described within the context of the district achievement profiles included in this publication. They are also organized for easier reference as a center insert that provides suggestions for state education agency personnel, district and school personnel (including regional Who Are Special Education Students? Special education students are a diverse group of students nationally and within states, districts, and schools, comprising 13% of the population of all public school students. Individual states vary in their percentages of special education students, from less than 10% to 19% across the states. One way to describe the characteristics of special education students is by their disability category, even though students within a single category have diverse needs. Nationally, there are 13 special education disability categories. The percentages of students in each category vary tremendously across states. For example, the percentages of special education students with specific learning disabilities (LD) varied from 15% of the special education population in one state to 60% in another. The percentage of students with intellectual disabilities varied from 3% to 19%. Other categories of disability also show considerable variation. Categorizing special education students, or any other group of students, should be done with caution. It is inappropriate to assume that the labels of special education or groups within special education, describe the characteristics of individual students. Rather, it is important to look beyond the group name (special education students) to develop appropriate mechanisms to accurately understand the characteristics and learning needs of these students in greater detail. It is also important to understand that special education students receive their instruction in the general education setting for varying amounts of their instructional time. In most states, however, more than 50% of special education students spend more than 80% of their instructional time in general education classrooms. And, most of the 6.5 million special education students in the country (except for a portion with the most significant cognitive disabilities who may fall in such categories as intellectual disabilities, autism, and multiple disabilities) participate in the general state assessment, rather than in an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. Source: Understanding Subgroups in Common State Assessments: Special Education Students and ELLs (NCEO, 2011). technical assistance providers), and parents/family members who might be interested in learning more about what questions to ask, or how to initiate and/or contribute to a conversation in their state, region, or district that supports all students to learn at higher levels. The district profiles presented in this publication are sequenced from the smallest (Bloom Vernon) to the largest (Gwinnett County Public Schools) and this sequence is not meant to connote that one district s work is more relevant or of a higher quality than the work of any other district. Each was identified for inclusion based on three factors: (1) the district was known to be engaged in certain practices believed to be associated with higher student learning; (2) the district was committed to district-wide implementation of such practices; and (3) the district was committed to and showing evidence of improving the performance of all students and student groups. As you read about the journeys of the featured districts, we hope you do so with the understanding that more powerful teaching begets more powerful outcomes for all children, including those who often experience challenges, such as special education students. Look for the attitudes, structures, and leadership and instructional practices used by these districts that are making a positive difference in students lives. While the districts work to continually improve adult practice and student learning is not done, each is making remarkable progress through focused, intentional action, sustainable and district-wide efforts, and the belief that they can positively affect the future of every child. 1 Taken from McNulty, B.A., & Besser, L. (2011). Leaders make it happen! An administrator s guide to data teams. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press. 5

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9 Bloom Vernon Local Schools: Achievement Profile South Webster, Ohio People will die for a cause, but they won t follow an initiative, explained South Webster Elementary School Principal Scott Holstein in talking about the natural inclination of the staff to resist externally imposed programs or strategies. Located in rural Appalachian Scioto County, the district serves 883 children in two buildings the K-6th grade South Webster Elementary and the 7-12th grade South Webster Junior/Senior High School. We re simultaneously tight on values and loose on how you get there, said 4th-5th Intervention Specialist Heidi Holstein. The husband and wife team have been with the district a number of years, having taught in Texas prior to joining Bloom Vernon. Bloom Vernon Local Schools Student Demographics Total Enrollment: 883 % Students Identified as Students with Disabilities: 11.6 % Students Identified as Economically Disadvantaged: 45.9 % Students Identified as Minority: 0.4 % Students Identified as Limited English Proficient: 0 Often described as the Little Smokies, Scioto County is located in the south central part of the state bordering the Ohio River and close to Shawnee State Forest, Ohio s largest state forest with more than 60,000 acres. With a population of a little over 2,200 people, the village of South Webster has an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent and a per capita personal income below $30, About half of the district s students are categorized as economically disadvantaged, and about half also live with family members who are unable to read. But that is viewed as a reality to be addressed, not as a reason for low achievement. There is no whining here about what parents do or don t do for their kids. There are conditions that may present challenges, but they can t be used as an excuse for low expectations, stated Heidi Holstein. A No Excuses Culture Today, a no excuses attitude pervades the conversation at the district level. However, that wasn t always the case. South Webster Junior/Senior High School Principal Bob Johnson, in his 27th year with the district, describes the turning point in the district s journey to becoming a much more focused organization. About nine years ago, we didn t make AYP for students with disabilities and that had a huge effect on me personally, said Johnson. I was embarrassed, he recalled. Heidi Holstein remembers that time well, explaining that NCLB sent a clear call to action and made us realize that kids can do this; we just weren t set up to teach them what they needed to do well. Use Data Well. The failure to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) caused the district to move into school improvement status and that triggered the involvement of the regional school improvement team operated through the South-Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC). With the help of the ESC, we began to focus on the data; most of the staff embraced this, but some got moved to different seats, said Johnson. We had always paid attention to student learning, but we started to also focus on the kids who weren t achieving, he added. Bloom Vernon was one of the districts that pioneered the use of data to look at the learning needs of individual children, said Eric Humston, single point of contact for the Ross-Pike ESC, one of 16 ESCs across the state that provide support to districts through a regional state support team (SST). The state s establishment of a coordinated SST regional structure replaced the former school improvement teams that were in operation prior to The ESC laid out the data in a way that couldn t be ignored; it was a real eye opener, said Johnson. I believe in the power of unification around purpose and ours is to help all kids learn at high levels. Our greatest challenge involves eliminating the mindset that because we re poor and rural, kids can t achieve. Rick Carrington, Superintendent 1 Sperling s Best Places to Live and Retire, 2010; Southern Ohio Environmental Scan & Market Analysis, Prepared for Southern State Community College. December 2010, Washington, DC: Hanover Research. 7

10 Since 1940, the Jeep has been the unofficial mascot of South Webster s high school athletic teams. Based on the 1938 cartoon with Popeye and the Jeep, the Jeep was a mystical creature that could do anything, including walking through walls, teleporting, and telling the future. While the character was first used in the 40 s to describe the then-basketball coach s penchant for smuggling answers to his players for how to address problems caused by the opposing team (in 1940 coaches were not permitted on the playing floor to instruct players), the Jeep s ability to look ahead provides an apt metaphor for the current practice of the district. But, unlike the Jeep, there s nothing magical about the district s progression from being in academic watch to becoming excellent according to the state s accountability designations. Rather, it s the district s effective use of data to identify the right problems, and monitor the degree to which their actions are having the desired effect, that has led to its success. Even more than the effective use of data, Bloom Vernon s practices have led to a culture where every teacher takes responsibility for every student, said Humston. I believe in the power of unification around purpose and ours is to help all kids learn at high levels. Our greatest challenge involves eliminating the mindset that because we re poor and rural, kids can t achieve, explained Superintendent Rick Carrington, now in his 31st year in the district and his 9th as superintendent. Levels Percentage of Students With and Without Disabilities by Performance Level Reading Writing Math Science Social Studies RE IEP RE IEP RE IEP RE IEP RE IEP Limited Basic Proficient Accelerated Advanced denotes not calculated/not displayed when there are fewer than 10 in the group RE denotes regular education Levels Percentage of Students With and Without Disabilities by Performance Level Reading Writing Math Science Social Studies RE IEP RE IEP RE IEP RE IEP RE IEP Limited Basic Proficient Accelerated Advanced denotes not calculated/not displayed when there are fewer than 10 in the group RE denotes regular education In addition to reviewing state assessment trend data annually, the district uses teacher-developed, short-cycle assessment data on an ongoing basis to gauge student progress. Even using short-cycle assessment is too long; we need to look at how we re doing daily, said Carrington. Bloom Vernon Performance Index Calculations School Year District Elementary School Junior/Senior High School Bloom Vernon s Performance Index (PI) calculation exceeded 100 for the first time this year a goal of the district leadership team. The PI is one of four measures used as part of Ohio s state accountability designations, with the others being AYP, state indicators, and a value added indicator. The PI measures how well students performed on assessments across all tested subjects and grade levels. The PI score is a weighted average that includes all tested subjects and grades (3rd-8th and 10th), and untested students, with the greatest weight given to advanced scores (i.e., 1.2) and a weight of zero given to untested students. The highest PI score a district can achieve is 120. Further, an examination of student assessment data over the past two years shows an increase in the number of students receiving special education services who scored at the accelerated and advanced levels in some areas (e.g., reading), and a general narrowing of the gap between children with and without disabilities at these levels. 8

11 The district experienced a drop in math performance for students with disabilities, as evidenced by a higher percentage of students scoring at the limited and basic level, from about 11% (limited) and 6% (basic) in to about 20% and 13% in While there are fewer children with disabilities at some tested grades, resulting in data not being reported (i.e., NC = not calculated), Superintendent Carrington states that the overall performance of students with disabilities, as well as students who are economically disadvantaged, continues to improve. Every child counts, he said. Carrington attributes the decrease in the number of students with disabilities from to to several factors. First, the general population in South Webster and surrounding Scioto County has been declining due to the economy and lack of available jobs. He also attributes the decreasing number of students identified as students with disabilities to the district s intentional efforts to intervene as early as possible, thereby reducing the number of children who are referred for special education services. We believe that if we don t intervene and get kids on track early, by the time they get to the fourth grade, it s much more difficult to change the path the child is on, said Carrington. About 10 years ago, the district began putting what Carrington describes as a lot of energy and resources into Pre-K through first grade by adding teachers and reducing class size at those grade levels in an effort to teach every child to read. Shame on us if kids come through here and can t read, he exclaimed. According to district administration, the children who present the most challenges to staff are the ones who move into the district at the 5th and 6th grade level. Bloom Vernon s proficiency test results, when compared with similar districts (i.e., districts with similar demographics, incomes, housing prices, etc.), exceeded the similar district average in 25 of 29 tested grades/subjects. But that s not good enough according to Johnson. We have the highest achievement in math at the high school level in the region, but we still don t have a national merit scholar, he laments. Focus Your Goals. While district leadership is quick to point out that weighing the pig won t make it fatter, the use of data to pinpoint areas of need, develop goals, and track progress rather than using data for datas sake is seen as an absolute priority. Looking at the data to identify needs is one of my favorite things to do, remarked Scott South Webster Elementary School Ohio Achievement Assessments # Students at # Students Least Proficient Tested Grade Subject Disability Flag (No/ Yes) Proficient Percentage 3rd Reading No % Yes % Math No % Yes % 4th Reading No % Yes NC < 10 NC Writing No Yes Math No % Yes NC < 10 NC 5th Reading No % Yes % Math No % Yes % Social No Studies Yes Science No % Yes % 6th Reading No % Yes NC < 10 NC Math No % Yes NC < 10 NC South Webster Junior High/High School Ohio Achievement Assessments/ Ohio Graduation Tests Grade Subject Disability Flag (No/ Yes) # Students at Least Proficient # Students Tested Proficient Percentage 7th Reading No % Yes NC < 10 NC Writing No Yes Math No % Yes NC < 10 NC 8th Reading No % Yes NC < 10 NC Math No % Yes NC < 10 NC Social No Studies Yes Science No % Yes NC < 10 NC 10th Reading No % Yes NC < 10 NC Writing No % Yes NC < 10 NC Math No % Yes NC < 10 NC Social No % Studies Yes NC < 10 NC Science No % Yes NC < 10 NC 11th Reading No % Yes % Writing No % Yes % Math No % Yes % Social No % Studies Yes % Science No % Yes % 9

12 Holstein. We look at data from the Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Tests, ACT data, and item analysis data to identify weaknesses and establish goals for improving performance in content areas. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that every child is college and career ready when they graduate, said Carrington. Rick regularly shares information about what successful organizations do and goal setting is number one, said Johnson. Even though the district was not in school improvement status, it chose to use a webbased tool developed by the Ohio Department of Education called the Ohio Decision Framework (DF). The DF is used at Stage 1 of the Ohio Improvement Process by district leadership teams and building leadership teams to make BLOOM VERNON NEEDS ASSESSMENT SUMMARY Identifying greatest concerns and priority/focus areas The district needs to continue to focus on providing intensive intervention with IEP students AYP was met with students with disabilities for the second consecutive year the current focus is on the right track with students showing growth. Formative assessment techniques are used in many grade level/subject areas; however, more widespread intensive training is needed and is set to occur starting with the school year. Parent surveys show a 97% satisfaction rating at the elementary level. There is a need for value-added training to bolster teacher understanding of the concept and to encourage the use of value-added data for school improvement purposes. Therefore, the three main areas of focus will be formative assessment techniques in the classroom, use of value-added data for instructional improvement, and intervention with students with disabilities. informed decisions about where to spend their time, energy, and resources to make significant and substantial improvements in student performance. The DF is populated with the district s own trend data, which are organized in such a way as to allow leadership teams to answer essential questions and make decisions about their greatest concerns and needs, leading to a needs assessment that is data-driven and that easily translates into the development of focused goals, strategies, and actions for impacting student learning. 2 Bloom Vernon identified one overall goal: By , all students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in core academic areas. The district also identified a limited number of strategies for reaching this goal, which include: 1. Align research-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment with the State s academic content standards, transitioning to the Common Core State Standards; 2. Collect and analyze data to identify patterns, pose hypotheses, design action steps, define evaluation criteria, conduct action research projects, drive decisions about practice, and commit to results; 3. Provide prevention/intervention services in reading, science, and math for children most at risk in these areas; 4. Align systems of intervention and special education services with scientifically based curriculum, instruction, and assessment and with the Common Core State Standards; 5. Distribute core academic highly qualified teachers equitably; and 6. Provide comprehensive family literacy services. Bloom-Vernon Local School District Needs Assessments Identifying greatest concerns and priority/focus areas Area 1: READING Concern: IEP Reading District All Students = 87% proficiency, Economically Disadvantaged (ED) students = 80%, IEP students (i.e., Students Receiving Special Education Services) = 80% Focus: Continue to focus on intensive intervention with IEP students [AYP was met with students with disabilities for second consecutive year-current focus is on the right track with students showing growth] Curriculum issues: Current subscale performance shows the weakest area is in Informational Text. The strongest subscale area is Vocabulary Assessment issues: High alignment of formative/short-cycle assessments- K-12; moderate use of clear learning goals K-12; moderate use of monitoring grades K-5 and 9-12; moderate use of student self-reflection, self-assessment, and use of descriptive feedback Instructional practice issues: High use of academic content standards with learning goals and activities to guide students progress; moderate use of learning goals communicated to students and families; high use of research-based instructional practices; moderate use of learning tasks that use higher-order thinking skills HQPD issues: High use of PD aligned to reading instructional strategies for low learners/intervention; high use of PD sharing; moderate use of PD follow-up; moderate level of monitoring processes for PD; moderate use of data from PD; 100% of core subject teachers are HQT Using the DF, the district identified three main areas of focus, which include using formative assessment techniques in the classroom, using value-added data for instructional improvement, and improving performance for students with disabilities. The district places great emphasis on (1) clarity of vision, including ensuring that new staff, students, and community members are carefully inducted 2 The DF is the major tool used at Stage 1 of the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP), Ohio s strategy for developing a statewide system of support designed to assist all districts and their schools improve instructional practice and student performance. While developed for use by all districts, under Ohio s federally approved differentiated accountability model, all districts in school improvement (SI) status or that have one or more schools in SI, are required to implement the OIP as their intervention. 10

13 into the district s core values, (2) annual goal setting, and (3) the sharing of practice across staff all intended to help all students achieve at the highest levels. And the school community, including the board of education, appears to be united around these core values. Carrington explains: This is a very small town and the Board president has been president for 14 years and on the Board for more than 25 years. The Board supports what we do. Bloom Vernon is also one of only a handful of districts in Ohio that has no teacher union. We ve never had an administrator versus teacher mentality here. We re trying to row the boat together, said Carrington. An attempt in November 1996 to establish a union for classified employees was voted down on a three to one basis. Our emphasis is on kids and our disagreements should be about what s best for them, he added. Bloom-Vernon Local School District Needs Assessments Identifying greatest concerns and priority/focus areas Area 2: MATHEMATICS Concern: IEP Math District All Students = 85% proficiency, ED students = 80%, IEP students = 84% Focus: Continue to focus on intensive intervention with IEP students [AYP was met with students with disabilities for second consecutive year-current focus is on the right track with students showing growth] Curriculum issues: Current subscale performance shows the weakest area is in Number Sense. The strongest subscale area is the area of Geometry Assessment issues: Moderate alignment of textbooks; high alignment of formative/short-cycle assessments-k-12; high alignment of other teacher-made instructional materials Instructional practice issues: High use of academic content standards with learning goals and activities to guide students progress; moderate use of learning goals communicated to students and families; high use of research-based instructional practices; moderate use of learning tasks that use higher-order thinking skills HQPD issues: High use of PD aligned to math instructional strategies for low learners/intervention; moderate use of PD sharing; moderate use of PD followup; moderate level of monitoring processes for PD; moderate use of data from PD; 100% of core subject teachers are HQT Years ago I felt like a glorified babysitter. I was trying to teach 12 of the neediest children at the same time, and meanwhile, they missed out on regular instruction. You can t catch a moving train and regular ed moves on. Heidi Holstein, 4th-5th Grade Intervention Specialist Ranked in the bottom third of the county in terms of teacher pay (in a county that is itself among the poorest in the state), Bloom Vernon seems to attract educators interested in working in the district and there is little teacher turnover. About half the staff live in the district and went to school here, but just because you live here doesn t mean you re qualified to be hired, said Carrington. If you pay attention to the who, you ll take care of most of the what, added Carrington. The district team places great stock in making sure that every person hired into the district understands the core values of high expectation, no excuses, and shared practice. It s imperative that we get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats on the bus, said Carrington. Carrington uses student achievement data to place teachers, ensuring that teacher strengths match identified needs. We ve had to remove very few people, though, through the years we have moved people to where we thought they could have the most impact on student learning, he said. First Who, Then What The drive to achieve is pervasive among the teaching force in Bloom Vernon and fueling that drive is the priority of the small core that makes up the district leadership team. The teachers are relentless; they have the same high expectations for all kids and believe that every child must achieve, said Scott Holstein. Bloom-Vernon Local School District Needs Assessments Identifying greatest concerns and priority/focus areas Area 3: EXPECTATIONS & CONDITIONS Concern: School climate overall discipline referrals are up; student discipline-grades 7, 10, 6 (Attn: minority, male, and ED); student expulsions/out-of-school suspensions-no expulsions for 10, suspensions grades 9, 7, and 10 (Attn: SWD and male) Focus: Continue focus on student success with high priority given to language and math instructional time Leadership issues: High use of data to improve student performance; high use of monitoring staff use of data; High use of common short cycle assessments to monitor student progress; high use of data to allocate district resources; high alignment of building plans to district CIP plan Communication issues: High effectiveness at informing and building families knowledge and skills in supporting their child s learning at home. Community issues: High engagement of preschool to actively participate in district professional development; moderate working with parent organizations and community organizations to focus on academic success of students Resource management issues: High teacher and PD alignment: high use of using teachers in making key decisions; high use of assignment of faculty flexibly to meet student needs in cost effective ways Select and Implement Shared Instructional Practices. Getting the right people in the right seats is not only the responsibility of district administrators. In fact, a team primarily comprised of teachers makes the recommendation on all new hires. 11

14 For example, if a 4th-grade teacher is being hired, the six-to-eight member team would include the 4th-grade teachers, the counselor, and the principal. We make sure that the person we select is committed to kids first and we ask questions to find out if that person will go the extra mile for kids, explained Heidi Holstein. Years ago, we hired a paraprofessional and the determining question was how do you feel about lice? Common planning time is built into the schedule in both the elementary and junior high/ high school. At the elementary level, teachers meet in grade-level teams and the principal meets with the teams regularly. At the junior high/high school, they meet in subject- or content-area teams. Weekly meetings are required; however, the teachers meet almost daily on an informal basis. You ll see teachers meeting at the copier, in the halls before and after classes, and in other settings, and the conversation is most often about how kids are doing, said Johnson. Teachers work together to meet the instructional needs of all children. At the elementary level, there is one licensed intervention specialist per grade, except at the fifth grade level. Heidi Holstein is the only teacher who is solely licensed as an intervention specialist; all other teachers assigned as intervention specialists are dual certified in special as well as general education. We re going to hit them with everything we ve got whether they have an IEP or not. We catch them early and intervene a lot, said Heidi Holstein. Years ago I felt like a glorified babysitter. I was trying to teach 12 of the neediest children at the same time, and meanwhile, they missed out on regular instruction. You can t catch a moving train and regular ed moves on, she said. Rather than providing different education to children who receive special education services, the district provides double instruction. The intervention specialists help all children work to meet grade-level standards, while providing remediation based on students gaps, said Holstein. At the junior high/high school, all 9th- and 10th-grade at-risk students receive double instruction in math and reading. At the same time, teachers are working to increase the rigor for all students. Our greatest moment came when we looked at our growth data, said Johnson. They weren t good and the teachers took it personally, he added. Johnson recalls that when he saw the growth data, he found out which districts in the state were showing the greatest gains. Having identified Olentangy High School as Excerpt from High School Model Curriculum in Mathematics High School Conceptual Category: Algebra Domain: Seeing Structure in Expressions Cluster: Write expressions in equivalent forms to solve problems Standards 3. Choose and produce an equivalent form of an expression to reveal and explain properties of the quantity represented by the expression a. Factor a quadratic expression to reveal the zeros of the function it defines b. Complete the square in a quadratic expression to reveal the maximum or minimum value of the function it defines. c. Use the properties of exponents to transform expressions for exponential functions. For example the expression1.15t can be written as (1.151/12)12t t to reveal the approximate equivalent monthly interest rate if the annual rate is 15% 4. Derive the formula for the sum of a finite geometric series (when the common ratio is not 1), and use the formula to solve problems. For example, calculate mortgage payments. Content Elaborations (in development) This section will provide additional clarification and examples to aid in the understanding of the standards. To support shared interpretations across states, content elaborations are being developed through multistate partnerships organized by CCSSO and other national organizations. This information will be included as it is developed. Expectations for Learning (in development) As the framework for the assessments, this section will be developed by the CCSS assessment consortia (SBAC and PARCC). Ohio is currently participating in both consortia and has input into the development of frameworks. This information will be included as it is developed. Source: Ohio Department of Education, 8/1/2011 one of the high-performing schools, he called his counterpart there and asked if South Webster teachers could meet with Olentangy High School teachers in the areas of math, science, and social studies. Contact between the teachers at the two schools continues today, and South Webster teachers have been able to bring back and share with their colleagues at home what they ve learned from dialogue/discussion with teachers at Olentangy High School. 12

15 Now, having received the excellent with distinction status for the third consecutive year, the subject-area teams are working toward the more systematic use of formative assessment to gauge student progress and the effectiveness of teaching practice. When we looked at the data, we hypothesized that we were doing better in meeting the needs of at-risk students, but we were not pushing our top performers, said Johnson. We started an Advanced Placement lab and all freshman have college-prep Algebra, World History, and English; the only difference for students who are at-risk or receive special education is that they receive additional instruction and support, he said. South Webster Junior High/High School participates in a state pilot using end-of-course (EOC) exams to assess student growth. Using the ACT Quality Core has helped us as a staff to increase expectations even further for all kids, and to be clear about those expectations. It s also helped us ramp up the rigor of the courses we teach, explained Johnson. Constancy of Purpose Borrowing from the CEO of Coca-Cola Company, we believe in constancy of purpose and continuous discontent with the present, explained Carrington. While much of what South Webster teachers do is not formalized, they are committed to continually improving their own practice and believe that other teachers are the greatest resource they have in supporting each other s continuous growth and development. We have great people here, said Johnson. Monitor and Provide Feedback and Support. High school English teachers Katie Kilgour, Judy Ellsesser, and Julie Haines exemplify the use of a professional learning community where teachers provide feedback and support to each other around what works best with students. The team meets frequently, sometimes informally and weekly as a content-area team to share strategies and discuss progress of individual students, improving consistency in expectation and focus across classes. Teachers are developing or refining course web pages where class assignments and learning objectives are posted. One outcome of using technology this way is that no matter how many snow days the district encounters this year (there were eight during ), students can access instruction and assignments. Our goal is to have school every day this year, no matter what kind of weather we get. We lost too much instructional time last year, explained Johnson. Other staff members are leading the way in the use of formative assessment. One such teacher, Angie McAlister, just completed her dissertation on the effects of the use of formative assessment on classroom performance. Others, such as 8th-grade math teacher Jamie McCorkle, is Ohio s Participation in The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Assessment Consortia CCSS is an initiative led by states and coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). According to the CCSS site, the standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. The standards are informed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live. The standards, which define the knowledge and skills students should have from kindergarten through twelfth grade, are aligned with college and work expectations; are developed to be clear, understandable and consistent, include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills; build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards; are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and are evidence-based. Ohio adopted the CCSS in English/Language Arts and Mathematics in June 2010 and aligned model curriculum in March Additional work is under way to develop content elaborations, and to contribute to the development of a framework for assessment through federally funded assessment consortia designed to develop the next generation of summative assessments. Ohio participates in both the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). For more information on the CCSS initiative, go to For information on assessment consortia, go to the following sites: SBAC: PARCC: 13

16 described by value added professional developers in the state as an outlier, exceeding one year of growth every year. These teachers are sharing what they know and, more importantly, what they do with colleagues through informal and more formal opportunities to learn. Rather than use state-allotted waiver days for the traditional workshop format, the district requires that these days be used by teachers to work together to review student data and identify instructional strategies for addressing students needs. Every nine weeks, we use a waiver day and teachers meet in teams to review short-cycle data and other student data and discuss student learning, explained Carrington. Many teachers have commented that they do two days of work in one day during the waiver days, he added. It would be easy to use the waiver days for housekeeping, but we are steadfast in ensuring that they be solely used for analyzing student assessment data and discussing instructional strategies, added Johnson. At the elementary level, students are frequently assessed on reading fluency. Our goal is to have every child reading 100 words a minute fluently, explained Heidi Holstein. Described as the data guy by his colleagues, Principal Scott Holstein knows the fluency rate of every child in the building and tracks it over the course of the year. All children in the school engage in timed repeated reading for 15 minutes each day, and every non-intervention teacher in grades 2 through 5 works with at least three children a day, providing additional intervention as part of the instructional process. We start in 2nd grade by administering a fluency test five times a year and use the results to review instructional approaches and identify needed intervention, explained Holstein. Every six to eight weeks we re revamping what we do to meet the needs of children based on what the data tell us, he added. A commercial fluency program is also used by the staff to improve consistency across the building. Years ago, teachers would send kids with disabilities to me to take care of them. Now, they say this is my reading or math time and you can t have them! This is the true barometer of adults taking responsibility for the success of all kids, said Heidi Holstein. It s Not About Us We re not charismatic leaders and it s not about us, said Carrington. It s also not about programs. We haven t relied a lot on outside people to do much; we take responsibility ourselves, he added. I can play golf with Snedeker s clubs and I m still lousy, he said, referring to professional golfer Brandt Snedeker. As a district, Bloom Vernon believes that people effective teachers and principals are more important than programs. One example of new work that involves every teacher in the district is the transition to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). All teachers at all levels are engaged in transitioning from Ohio s academic content standards to the new CCSS. The teachers want to do it themselves, said Carrington. Inquire and Learn. While bringing in outside people to tell staff what to do may not be looked upon favorably, Carrington constantly brings the work of national researchers and leading thinkers to his staff. He also shares the good news, regularly describing accomplishments of staff, the two schools, and the district. He spurs others to say if they can do it, so can we, said Heidi Holstein. Rather than mandate a program or initiative, Rick asks questions and puts ideas out there as ways to get better at teaching children, she added. 14

17 Success is a motivator, it spirals up, said Johnson. And the staff collectively feels that good instruction leads to even better instruction across the board. We re believers in the flywheel effect, said Johnson. The notion of a flywheel is used by Jim Collins 3 to describe how some organizations have moved from good to great by preserving core values, while continuously getting better through consistency, focus, and hard work. Tangible evidence that the work is paying off leads to increased momentum for continued hard work, resulting in the wheel turning faster and faster or real and lasting continuous improvement. In Good to Great, Collins chronicles the progress of companies studied during a five-year project, describing what contributed to the change process: In each of these dramatic, remarkable, good-to-great corporate transformations, we found the same thing: There was no miracle moment. Instead, a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process a framework kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul. In each case, it was the Flywheel Effect over the Doom Loop, the victory of steadfast discipline over the quick fix. (web interview with Jim Collins by FastCompany.com, December 19, 2007, page 2). The district leadership team, which meets monthly, uses a traditional model in that it is comprised of the superintendent, the two principals, and assistant principals. Student data from grade-level and content-area teaching teams is given to and reviewed by principals who, in turn, monitor progress and discuss needs during the DLT meetings. We never have an administrative team meeting where we don t focus on student learning, said Johnson. In addition to formal meetings of the leadership team, the superintendent and principals eat lunch together in the high school cafeteria most days of the week. Embracing Discontent Hard work and staying focused on continuing to get better at supporting all students at higher levels is the mantra of the district leadership. Looking at our progress is gratifying, but we don t want to get content with where we are, said Carrington. It s about avoiding minutiae, getting the right people, and keeping them focused on student learning, said Carrington. Advice from Bloom Vernon Local School District 1. Avoid minutiae. 2. Stay focused on your core purpose teaching and learning. 3. Make clear the expectations for supporting all children to learn at higher levels. 4. Hire the right people and put them in the right positions. 5. Use data to identify and prioritize needs, and monitor student progress. 6. Avoid programs or initiatives as the answer or silver bullet. 7. Work hard and support each other. For additional information about the district s work, contact Rick L. Carrington, Superintendent, Bloom Vernon Local Schools, P.O. Box 237, South Webster, OH at , or via at 3 Collins, J. (2001). Good to great. New York: Harper Collins. 15

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19 Lake Villa School District #41: Achievement Profile Lake Villa, Illinois Lake Villa School District #41, a suburban district in the far northeastern corner of IL, serves approximately 3,300 students in kindergarten through grade 8. The district encompasses four elementary schools (1 PK-6 and 3 K-6) and one middle school (grades 7-8). At the conclusion of eighth grade, Lake Villa children graduate from the district and enroll in one of three area high schools. Lake Villa School District #41 Student Demographics Total Enrollment: 3,231 % Students Identified as Students with Disabilities: 13.0 % Students Identified as Economically Disadvantaged: 18.5 % Students Identified as Minority: 26.6 % Students Identified as Limited English Proficient: 5.4 Of Lake Villa s students, about 13% are identified as students with disabilities and receive special education services accordingly. The district serves primarily non-minority mid-income families; however, the Lake Villa community is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of socio-economic and racial composition. About 19 percent of Lake Villa s students are economically disadvantaged and there is a growing number of children identified as limited English proficient. In the immediate years leading up to 2006, the Lake Villa School District #41 struggled to find ways to tackle the lack of significant student progress in core academic subjects across the district, while trying to identify a workable strategy for getting the middle school out of Academic Watch status. Then, in July of 2006, a new superintendent, assistant superintendent, and director of special education were hired and began the hard work of changing the ways in which adults worked together to raise the level of instructional practice and student performance across the district. In 2006, each building had different goals and there was no overall strategy for making improvements. We were a confederation of schools, not a school district, said Lake Villa superintendent Dr. John Van Pelt, who moved to Lake Villa from Iowa where he had been associate superintendent of Waterloo Public Schools. Crucial Elements for Whole System Reform 1. Foster intrinsic motivation of teachers and students; 2. Engage educators and students in continuous improvement of instruction and learning; 3. Inspire collective or team work; and 4. Affect all teachers and students 100% Fullan (May 2011) calls this kind of emphasis on districtwide reform the name of the game, asserting, whole system success requires the commitment that comes from intrinsic motivation and improved technical competencies of groups of educators working together purposefully and relentlessly (May 2011, p. 8). 1 He offers four elements necessary for whole system reform intrinsic motivation, instructional improvement, teamwork, and allness suggesting they be used as criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of a driver or set of drivers. Drivers are defined by Fullan as policy and strategy levers that have the least and best chance of driving successful reform. 1 Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform. East Melbourne Victoria: Center for Strategic Education Seminar Series

20 DistriCT-wide Focus Fosters Sense of Allness Over the last five years, Van Pelt and his team demonstrated the kind of relentlessness Fullan describes in their focus on identifying and implementing the right work. And, they ve been highly intentional in ensuring that all personnel have the skills and competencies to do the work. We couldn t have done what we ve done here without the support and involvement of the teaching staff and union. The strong relationship that exists has allowed us to move much faster in putting reforms and improvements in place, said Alex Barbour, assistant superintendent with responsibility for teaching and learning. Van Pelt concurs, saying I know of no examples of districts making good progress that don t have good relationships with teachers and the support of the teachers union. If you don t have that kind of relationship, you must develop it, said Van Pelt. Focus Your Goals. Collective ownership for the success of every child is evident in how the district approaches its work on a day-to-day basis, and in its commitment to pursuing common goals through collaborative teams. Being focused in Lake Villa means using a systemic approach that is grounded in a framework or guiding set of procedures that guides the district, said Van Pelt. Identification of a limited number of strategic goals began in October 2006 when the district embarked on a yearlong process to develop a Comprehensive Accountability Plan for focusing and implementing essential work across the district. An Accountability Task Force comprised of teachers, principals, central office personnel, community members, parents, and others identified a limited number of district goals and a coordinated set of district-wide, central office, and school indicators for: Aligning each school s improvement plan with the overall district plan; Ensuring the provision of targeted professional development (PD) to address district needs; Monitoring the degree of implementation of key initiatives across the district; Evaluating, on a continuous basis, the effectiveness of the district s strategies in meeting district-wide goals; and Communicating progress toward meeting districtwide goals with the board, community, and internal stakeholders. Lake Villa Comprehensive Accountability System Curriculum Alignment Effective Instruction The plan incorporates an action and monitoring component, which requires each building as well as central office to target a minimum of two indicators related to student achievement and at least one indicator for each of the other district goals (not to exceed seven indicators). Associated activities or action steps are delineated and a time line, roles and responsibilities, measures for the activity, and related resources are spelled out. Standards Data Sources Classroom Assessments: Classroom Formative assessments that are indicators of individual student mastery of standards. Subject Area/Grade Level Assessments: Common Formative Assessments developed and analyzed by Learning Teams. School & Central Office Department Indicators: Measures indicating the impact of the strategies included in school and central office department strategic improvement plans. They are aligned with District-Wide Indicators. District-Wide Indicators: State tests, district trimester benchmark assessments, and other large-scale indicators used to measure progress toward the achievement of district-wide strategic goals. Reflections & Recommendations: Narratives focused on the impact of school/ central office department strategies. These narratives explain the extent to which expectations were met and focus on next steps toward continuous improvement. Aligning Essential Work u District-Wide Indicators measure the progress toward the goals of Lake Villa School District #41 u Building/Central Office Indicators provide evidence that strategies are being effectively implemented at the building, and central office levels u Reflections and Recommendations provide a qualitative narrative of the efforts toward continuous improvement Building and central office personnel are also required to complete and submit a progress monitoring report each trimester that provides data supporting progress over time, the strategies that have been implemented to address target indicators, and the inferences/conclusions and reflections and recommendations for what s working and what needs to be modified or dropped. 18

21 Also included as a component of the Comprehensive Accountability Plan are professional development (PD) and communication components. In Lake Villa, all PD must be directly related to district identified goals. The administrative team described the use of focused PD as a practice embedded in the philosophy of the district. We do not support a menu approach to PD, said Barbour. Appendix B.3 Action and Monitoring Plan (Each school and central office department will complete five to seven Action and Monitoring Plans, one for each Building/Central Office Indicator selected. These plans will contain a minimum of two indicators related to student achievement and at least one indicator for each of the remaining goals as identified in the Accountability Plan not to exceed a total of seven indicators.) STRATEGY # DISTRICT STRATEGIC GOAL: DISTRICT-WIDE INDICATOR: ACTIVITY (Action Steps) TIMELINE ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES Activity #1 Activity #2 Activity #3 Van Pelt and Barbour are both certified by The Leadership and Learning Center as data team trainers and have personally trained every staff member in the district in the effective use of data by groups of teachers referred to as Learning Teams (LTs) in Lake Villa. Use Data Well. The identification of goals and related indicators grew out of an extensive Task Force review of multiple sources of data, including results of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) data and district assessments for all children and disaggregated results for subgroups such as children receiving special education services. Data drive the decision-making process; early on, writing stood out as a major need, explained Van Pelt. In fact, while only 50% of Lake Villa s students were proficient in writing in 2007, 78% scored at the proficient or advanced levels by The team view the use of statewide assessment data as a key strategy for supporting positive change. Accordingly, data are used at all levels of the district from the use of the district dashboard to the use of district-wide common formative assessment data by learning teams to monitor the degree of implementation of district initiatives across the district, and to evaluate whether implementation is sufficient to achieve desired results for all children, and for subgroups of children. We look at gaps in two You have to start with the core, no matter what we would not run an RtI process that was parallel to our improvement efforts, nor did we want to reinforce the use of interventions based on the preference of individual teachers. Mary Conkling, Director of Special Education ways, Van Pelt explained. We monitor the gap between groups of children, and we also look at how to significantly increase rigor and cognitive demand for all children to assess our progress against international standards, he added. Requirements for the use of data are made clear by district leadership. We re careful not to give too much data; the data we want teachers to use must be relevant, said Barbour. For example, the district has identified writing and reading as its primary focus areas (i.e., areas of greatest need); therefore, Learning Teams across the district are instructed to focus on those areas, rather than on other areas (e.g., mathematics) that are not currently identified as high need areas. Data are also used to gauge the progress of groups of students and individual students, and to identify additional interventions that some children may need to attain grade-level benchmarks. Mary Conkling, Lake Villa Director of Special Education, credits the district s insistence on aligning and focusing the work with improving results for all children. You have to start with the core, no matter what. Levels* IEP District State BUILDING/CENTRAL OFFICE INDICATOR# MEASURES FOR THE ACTIVITY Grade 7 Students with Disabilities Reading Mathematics Science RESOURCES FOR THE ACTIVITY Non-IEP District State Source: Lake Villa School District # District Report Card, Illinois State Board of Education *1=warning; 2=below; 3=meets; 4=exceeds 19

22 We intentionally integrated response to intervention (RtI) practices as part of the overall improvement effort, believing that the use of appropriate interventions meant the intervention had to be integrated as part of the instructional process, had to be evidenced-based, and had to be responsive to the needs of the individual child. We would not run an RtI process that was parallel to our improvement efforts, nor did we want to reinforce the use of interventions based on the preference of individual teachers, said Conkling. The district s focus on core academic areas of need is paying off. District math and reading scores increased significantly over a five-year period, from From , students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the ISAT state average across all tested subjects. In 2007 and 2008, Lake Villa students exceeded the state average in reading at every grade level, and in 2008, they exceeded the state average in math and science at every grade level tested. And in writing the district s initial area of focus the district-wide average on the writing portion of the ISAT increased from 50% proficient (in ) to 72% proficient ( ), a 22-point gain in two years (Leadership and Learning Center, 2009). 2 State assessment data for students receiving special education services (IEP subgroup) also show steady progress over the past several years. For example, the performance of 7th graders in reading show an increase in the percentage of students with disabilities that meets or exceeds standards, and an associated decrease in the percentage of students scoring below or flagged with an academic warning. The performance of students with disabilities at grade 7 across reading, math, and science also shows more Lake Villa students with disabilities that meet/exceed state standards as compared to the state average. StruCTures that Promote Internal Accountability Lake Villa s commitment to greater accountability for achievement results led to the formation of aligned team structures across four levels: district management, district leadership, building leadership, and teacher team (i.e., learning team). We need to be able to connect results to specific action steps. We wouldn t be able to do that if schools worked in isolation, explained Barbour. Inquire and Learn. Lake Villa s commitment to being a learning organization through a well-established culture of inquiry is evident at each level across the system. At the district level, a Central Office Administrative Team (COAT) meets regularly and is comprised of the superintendent, assistant superintendent, director of special education, and business manager. In addition to COAT, an Administrative Team that Grade Level: Reading Implementation Month: Evident Whole Group - Direct Instruction 1. Boot Camp Modeling (1 st 2-6 weeks) 2. Immersion Week/Day a. Genre: b. Anchor charts! Teacher created! Student created c. Interactive read alouds! Teacher model! Turn and talk d. Modeling comprehension strategies (circle)! Schema, questioning, visualizing, determining importance, monitoring, and reparing comprehension, making interences, synthesizing 3. Genre Mini Lessons a. Lesson plan (explicit focus) b. Mentor text c. Vocabulary enhanced 4. Word Work a. Word cell b. Rebecca Sitton priority words and word wall 5. Wrap Up a. Students sharing NEW information learned b. Sharing comprehension strategies Comments: 2 The ISAT is administered in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math, in grades 4 and 7 in science, and in grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 in writing. 20

23 includes COAT members plus all five principals and two assistant principals at the middle school, meet face-to-face twice a month and hold phone conferences on alternate weeks. The administrative team spends the first part of every meeting reviewing assessment, instruction, and PD data related to districtidentified needs, and the second part of the meeting discussing managerial/operational issues. The Administrative Team also completes a walk-through once a month as part of its team meeting and then uses remaining meeting time to discuss what the group collectively believes constitutes good instruction. A walk-through is defined as a short, focused, informal administrative observation, which may result in reflective conversation. At the school level, building leadership teams (BLTs) are in place and functioning at a high level. At the elementary level, BLTs are comprised of the principal and team leader (a designated teacher) for each grade; at the middle school, the principal, assistant principals, and all teacher leaders for each subject area comprise BLT membership. BLTs meet at least monthly before or after school to discuss progress toward reaching goals, achievement gaps, progress monitoring and assessment data and results, intervention needs, and resources, and to identify successes and challenges. BLTs must provide Superintendent Van Pelt with a meeting schedule and any changes to meeting dates. Van Pelt regularly attends BLT meetings and attends unannounced two to three times per year. The superintendent cannot be a spectator; he/she must make clear that the work is the priority of the district. If the superintendent is not part of the process and guiding the board, it s not going to work, stated Van Pelt. Van Pelt believes that superintendents must reinforce key leadership practices necessary to achieving district-wide goals. How principals are evaluated is key; principals are, and are expected to be, part of a larger conversation about instruction and achievement beyond what happens in their individual school, he said. Accordingly, Van Pelt evaluates every principal in the district, and every principal has been trained in the use of the data team process and receives frequent and ongoing support and feedback from Van Pelt and Barbour on their progress toward meeting district-wide goals. Despite the dramatic shift in the role of the principal in Lake Villa We need to be able to connect results to specific action steps. We wouldn t be able to do that if schools worked in isolation. Alex Barbour, Assistant Superintendent from a more traditional managerial role prior to 2006 to directly leading and monitoring instructional improvement there has been no turnover in principal leadership over the past five years, a fact that Barbour believes has contributed to the district s capacity for making district-wide improvement. 21

24 I see huge gains in my students success, just by getting together with my team and discussing data, strengths, and weaknesses. I see my students from a different viewpoint at times, just showing my coworkers student work, and getting their input. It also creates a positive atmosphere. I am comfortable going to them for anything, and that makes me want to come to work each day knowing that my team is supportive of each other. LT Member Principals Sandy Keim and Scott Klene regularly assess the benefits and effectiveness of LTs (described below) with building staff and the feedback they receive suggests that the use of LTs is perceived by many staff to improve learning for students and staff alike. At the teacher level, all teachers are involved as members of learning teams (LTs). At the elementary level, LTs meet by grade level. At the middle school, LTs meet by subject and grade level. Specialty area teachers (e.g., music, art, technology) have district-wide LTs, while physical education teachers have LTs at both the elementary and middle school level. Special education teachers and related services staff (referred to as special education resource personnel), ELL teachers, and reading resource teachers are involved as members of learning teams (LTs) in their respective schools. Each team is required to have a teacher association representative as a member. More than 40 learning teams are functioning across the district, all using a consistent and common data team approach to develop long- and short-range goals for improving student achievement based on data analysis. Each LT meets weekly for 60 to 100 minutes and reports results each trimester. Each LT s agenda and meeting notes are submitted to the principal weekly. The LT process involves the following steps: Collect and chart data; Analyze strengths and obstacles; Establish, review, and revise SMART goals 3 ; Select specific instructional strategies (what teachers will do for students) to support improvement; Develop common classroom formative assessments; On Learning Teams Doug Reeves, founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, describes the feedback loop to staff on the overall implementation level of identified strategies resulting from the collection and reporting of data by data/learning teams as an inquiry process that is the most critical component of district and school continuous improvement. Doug Reeves Determine results indicators (what students will do so team members know when progress has been made); and Implement consistent interventions when students are not making satisfactory progress. After each member of an LT administers the same assessment (typically every six to 12 weeks), the team disaggregates the data to determine which children are proficient, which are close to being proficient, and which need additional support to be proficient. The team then analyzes the data to identify possible reasons why some children are not proficient and the areas in which they re struggling. Strategies are identified for addressing each of these areas and the nature and intensity of supports to be provided are determined. The team puts action steps into place and clearly identifies expected levels of performance, which are then used on a weekly basis to gauge students response to instruction and intervention, and any needed changes in instructional content and/or delivery. 3 SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (see Doran, Miller, & Cunningham, 1981). 22

25 Special education resource personnel, who include special education teachers and related services personnel such as speech language pathologists and school psychologists, rotate through the LTs. Additionally, at the middle school level, the special education resource personnel lead the LT meeting once per month, and are involved as members of both the color teams (i.e., heterogeneous groups of students organized into middle school teams or houses ) and content area (e.g., reading, math) teams. One of the greatest benefits of the LT process is the team development of strategies and interventions when students are not meeting expectations. We use a tiered intervention model, but ensure that the ongoing review of assessment results and development of interventions are incorporated into the LT process, said Conkling. Teachers, who are selected by colleagues or appointed by principals, assume the team leader function, facilitating and guiding the work of the LTs for at least a one-year term. One spin-off of using a shared leadership model is that teachers in Lake Villa have more ownership and accountability for student learning and achievement. LT team leaders are assuming new leadership roles throughout the district, thereby increasing the capacity of the staff to meet learning challenges. Staff efficacy is clearly increasing, observed Van Pelt. The superintendent cannot be a spectator; he/she must make clear that the work is the priority of the district. If the superintendent is not part of the process and guiding the board, it s not going to work. John Van Pelt, Superintendent Using Structures to Foster Engagement and Sustain Focus. As we moved along and teachers felt comfortable in voicing concerns, that strengthened the relationship and increased buy-in and support for the improvements we were making, said Conkling. For example, as LTs were put in place, teachers expressed concern about not having enough time to work together. The district listened and responded. Now, release time is built into the schedule and LTs meet for one hour every Friday afternoon the last hour of the school day. The community and school board were heavily involved in making the decision to provide four hours of release time per month to support LT work as part of overall district improvement. Providing four hours of common work time every month meant four hours less of instructional time per month, which seemed counterintuitive to some members of the community. We knew that, politically, we had to show results in improved achievement to justify this kind of investment or we wouldn t be doing it for long, explained Van Pelt. Active and systemic community engagement beginning with the development of the district s Comprehensive Accountability Plan has been important in helping the district sustain a focus on the right work. At the end of Van Pelt s third year as Lake Villa superintendent, five of the seven school board members who had hired him were gone. Having and using a structured framework and by that I mean the accountability plan gave the district a solid foundation and strategy for bringing people together around the district s core work and direction. This allowed us to stay on course despite changes in board leadership, said Van Pelt. 23

26 Select and Implement Shared Instructional Practices. But having the plan, while essential, is not sufficient to improve instruction and student achievement. The Administrative Team attends Friday LT sessions on a regular, and sometimes unannounced, basis. The superintendent sets the direction for the work and his visible presence is a strong reminder that the work of LTs is the core work of the district. The Comprehensive Accountability Plan is put into practice through the work of the Learning Teams. We believe that any plan has limited usefulness until it impacts teaching and learning at the classroom and student level, said Van Pelt. PraCTices that Achieve Results While Lake Villa has made substantial progress over the past five years, the district team is quick to point out that their work is far from done. A few teams think they do this work for the district; it s something they think they have to do, rather than something they need to do to drive instruction, said Barbour. Despite pushback, which is minimal, the Administrative Team holds firm on the use of common strategies across the district. When teachers adopt strategies or interventions on their own, we can t evaluate whether our core content is effective. We have to have consistency in the implementation of specific targeted strategies and interventions to be able to monitor their degree of implementation and evaluate whether their use is having the desired effect on student performance, explained Van Pelt. Conkling agreed, adding we piloted materials to ensure their appropriateness for kids and their usability by parents. Monitor and Provide Feedback and Support. The formation of LTs is believed to be the most significant and essential initiative undertaken by the district since 2006, providing teacher teams with clearly defined focus and process for improving teaching and learning. Providing feedback to each other on instructional strategies, and using and collaboratively scoring common classroom formative assessments such as writing prompts and rubrics coupled with standardized assessments, are key practices embedded in the LT process. Comprehensive Accountability Plan Appendix B.4 Professional Development Plan (EXCERPT) Strategy Program Responsibility Resources Timeline Reading Learning Team Internal Staff Development Learning team peer observations, collaboration, and reflective discussions with Literacy Coaches on the topics of: assessment, modeling instruction, guided reading, literature circles, genre mini-lessons, immersion, and interventions Alex Barbour, assistant superintendent Eileen Huston, Mary Lutgen, and Becky Stellwag, literacy coaches Sandra Keim, principal Kathleen Blasius, lead teacher Team leaders, facilitators Lake Villa School District 41 Reading Curriculum Rebecca Sitton Word Study Program Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment September 2010 May 2011 (monthly) 24

27 The adoption of a district-wide reading curriculum, which included development of a curriculum framework and student outcomes aligned with the Illinois state and college readiness standards, as well as development of aligned district-wide common formative assessments, was another major undertaking designed to ensure quality and consistency in instructional practice across the district. The redesign of curriculum to ensure alignment to standards and consistency in implementation is being supported by the district s adoption of Charlotte Danielson s Framework for Teaching. It s a game-changer in terms of increased expectations for staff. It s given us a common language for talking about instruction and defining what we believe high quality instructional practice really looks like, said Van Pelt. Targeted PD and Intentional Resource Use. District resources are intentionally used to support focused PD, purchase instructional materials directly related to curriculum implementation, and technology to support the work. Rather than target small numbers of people for PD, or allow individuals to identify and pursue PD separate from the district s plan, all staff are required to complete data team training, which is delivered by the superintendent and assistant superintendent annually to new staff. The superintendent also facilitated training in classroom walk-through and observation with all administrators in Since then, new administrators have been trained and all are required to conduct walk-through observations for the purpose of monitoring the progress of district initiatives. Providing the training in-house has helped Barbour and Van Pelt develop a high level of professional expertise, built the capacity of the staff as a whole, and saved money. We want a curriculum-driven district and use a system approach in the intentional use of resources, rather than allowing each building to decide how it spends a certain amount of resources, said Van Pelt. District leadership has avoided buying off-the-shelf products, believing that any product or tool they use must ensure that the specific practices the district wants to implement are the ones that are monitored. As a case in point, administrators use commercial walk-through software, but adapt it to collect observation data against key identified district practices. Use of a common electronic tool to conduct observations has helped the Administrative Team develop a common, collective approach to monitoring implementation and identifying PD needs. We re careful not to characterize walkthrough observations as teacher evaluation, explained Van Pelt. We do, however, use the data to identify relative strengths and challenges, he said. Balancing Fidelity of Implementation with Flexibility to Meet Student Needs. Buildings have the latitude to identify indicators and activities to determine the needs of the students they serve, but all schools have the same district-wide goals that Goal #2: Increase the percent of special education resource students scoring proficient or higher in the area of reading Goal Not Yet Met: 32% 24/76 Percentage of Special Education Students Proficient on Benchmark Assessments in Reading (Target: 40%; 31/78; based on pre-assessment data) Reported Three Times Per Year Activity #1: Ensure professional development on reading interventions has been completed for all pertinent staff and continued with in-house support from literacy coaches Activity #2: Ensure Tier two and three interventions are implemented appropriately Activity #3: Progress monitor students within the special education subgroup; provide instruction based on students needs and modify instructional approaches if needed Activity #4: Further utilize literacy coaches as a resource to provide special education and resource teachers with training specific to their field Activity #5: Collaborate and utilize staff members that are having greatest impact on student achievement as a resource Activity #6: Focus on moving our students from the not meeting to meeting state standards by identifying the students in the not meeting category and providing instruction based on the students individual needs to move such students to the meeting category According to our district-wide Fountas and Pinnell fall 2009 assessment data, 22% of our students were reading at benchmark at the beginning of the school year. By the end of the school year there was an increase from about 20% of students reading at the benchmark level in the fall to 40% of students reading at the benchmark level in the spring of It is our goal to again have a similar trend for the school year. 25

28 guide their work. Staffing assignments are one way the district addresses building-identified needs. For example, the best way to structure services and supports for ELL students and students at risk of being identified as learning disabled was taken into account in allocating and assigning personnel. The Administrative Team ensured that resources were provided to address needs and assigned literacy coaches to the buildings with the greatest needs. The special education resource teachers viewed as equal members of LTs charged with working to ensure that every child reaches/exceeds grade-level expectations use the services of the literacy coaches as much as their general education counterparts do. Each building reports to the board twice a year and uses a mid-year reflection/recommendation template (i.e., part of the Comprehensive Accountability Plan) to list building activities and report progress against each district goal. An excerpt from the Thompson Elementary School reports that the percentage of students receiving special education services who were proficient on benchmark assessments in reading doubled -- from 20 to 40 percent over the course of a school year. Another section of the document reports that 62.5 percent of students receiving special education services were proficient on ISAT Reading (Lake Villa District Report Card, 2010). District review of the progress being made by subgroups of children has led to greater collaboration and dialogue among teachers. When the district noticed that state assessment results for fifth grade writing for students with limited English proficiency (LEP) 26

29 were much higher in one of its buildings than all others, the Administrative Team pulled all fifth grade LTs together to talk about instructional delivery and promote sharing among teams. Our biggest challenge is how to provide more time to students who need it within an already busy schedule, said Barbour. Beginning in , Lake Villa will designate a specified time in the daily schedule to address the need for intervention for students with disabilities and/or other learners who may be struggling. A 50-minute daily time block will be incorporated into the K-3 schedule for intervention and enhancement/extension. During this designated time, all teachers will provide intervention to students who need it to successfully master the core curriculum, and extension activities to children who are already proficient. In grades 4 through 6, the same process will be used during a 40-minute daily time allotment. We re committed to minimizing interruptions and maximizing the amount of direct instructional time for all children. The intervention time won t be a cure-all, but it will provide another strategy for responding to the instructional needs of children who require additional time and services, agreed Conkling. A Foundation for Sustainable Improvement: What Matters Most The Lake Villa administrative team believes that the district has addressed the biggest challenge it faced in 2006 that of schools working in isolation. However, when asked to rate the degree to which the improvements put in place beginning in 2006 have been effective in achieving desired results, he and his team are quick to point out that they re not done. We can t say our actions are achieving desired results in every respect until every child is achieving at high levels. And they re not, not yet anyway, said Van Pelt. The next big pieces of work for the Lake Villa School District #41 involve finalizing development of a standards-based report card, and instituting a new teacher evaluation process including a principal and related services staff evaluation component based on Danielson s Framework. The more evident it becomes that our work results in improved performance, the easier it is for more people to embrace the direction we ve taken and stay focused on the work, said Van Pelt. Advice from Lake Villa 1. Move from a focus on individual buildings to a focus on district-wide implementation to sustain the work. 2. Use data at all levels. 3. Establish a foundation to guide the work. 4. Share leadership and support the development of essential leadership practices across the district. 5. Use external facilitation to provide an outside voice, especially at the beginning of a change process. 6. Focus PD on a few initiatives aligned with district-wide goals and train everyone. 7. Ensure interventions are embedded as part of the instructional process. 8. Intentionally target resources to meet district needs. For additional information about the Lake Villa School District #41 story, contact Dr. John Van Pelt, Superintendent of Schools, 131 McKinley Avenue, Lake Villa, IL at or via at 27

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31 Wooster City Schools: Achievement Profile Wooster, Ohio Three years ago, the Wooster City School District (WCSD) took a leap of faith, signing on with the state education agency as a partner district to help design and test the development of a statewide improvement process that could be used by any district, regardless of size and demographics, to improve student learning. Wooster City School District Student Demographics Total Enrollment: 3,748 % Students Identified as Students with Disabilities: 17.6 % Students Identified as Economically Disadvantaged: 53.3 % Students Identified as Minority: 13.5 % Students Identified as Limited English Proficient: 0.5 Dubbed the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP), it was the state s vehicle for establishing a state system of support focused on instructional leadership and improvement a system that was truly statewide in scope and systemic in nature. Built around the use of an embedded set of connected, web-based data tools, the OIP is being used by well over half of the 612 traditional public school districts and 100+ charter schools in the state to enact essential leadership practices as identified by the Ohio Leadership Advisory Council (OLAC), a broad-based stakeholder group jointly sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. 1 It is also a key component of the state s Race to the Top (RttT) strategy. New to the district in 2008, but not to the superintendency, Michael Tefs initially used the district s involvement in OIP to get the lay of the land, conducting an environmental scan to identify the district s most pressing issues and develop the kind of collaborative partnerships needed to focus and align core work across the district. As a superintendent, you have to be willing to check your ego at the door because you re not going to be the keeper of the initiatives. It s synergistic, it s an entire team process that s a makeup of your cabinet, your management, teachers, even parents and students, explained Tefs. Today, after three years of OIP implementation, the district has redefined the role of central office; forged a strong district-union partnership; instituted an aligned leadership team structure across the district, school, and teacher team levels; and become very intentional in reducing initiatives to increase the district s focus on student learning. Wooster s nine schools (one preschool, six elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school) are working in more coherent ways to consistently define and implement high quality instructional strategies, and also continually evaluate the effects of their efforts on the progress each child is making. Having a very focused, intentional strategic OHIO LEADERSHIP ADVISORY COUNCIL & THE OHIO IMPROVEMENT PROCESS: CORE MESSAGES/NON-NEGOTIABLES Leadership is a shared responsibility Leadership is a process distributed across an entire school system Accountability for school improvement requires leadership structures that foster internal accountability A collective focus on full and sustained implementation is necessary for school improvement The Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) provides a vehicle for initiating Ohio s Leadership Development Framework All learning, including teachers learning of instructional practices, depends on changes in behavior that respond to precise and relevant feedback For more information, go to 1 While developed for use by all districts, under Ohio s federally approved differentiated accountability model, all districts in school improvement (SI) status or that have one or more schools in SI, are required to implement the OIP as their intervention. 29

32 priority helps us gain and grow. It s the foundation for our school improvement system here, said Tefs. ColleCTive Focus Reduces Fragmentation Building the foundation for growth starts with narrowing the focus so that a limited number of strategies and actions can be implemented well. Categorized by the state as an urban district with low median income and high poverty, Wooster s progress has been slow but steady. At the end of the school year, the district made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for all student groups for the first time since the inception of the state s is involved? District/Building Leadership Teams State Diagnostic Teams (SDTs) work with selected high support districts State Support Teams (SSTs) work with districts and schools in need of improvement Educational Service Centers (ESCs) work with other districts requesting assistance do these teams work in districts and schools? Teams use data tools to identify critical needs accountability system under NCLB. More important, the performance of all groups of students has increased over the last year, moving the district from the effective category to excellent. Use Data Well. Part of using data well involves who s using it and whether its use leads to meaningful action. The OIP, as a process designed to assist all districts in implementing essential leadership practices, had as a core belief the notion, borrowed from Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Richard Elmore, that the purpose of leadership is the improvement of instructional practice and performance, regardless of role. 2 To that end, the OIP required the development of a district leadership team (DLT), aligned building leadership teams (BLTs), and teacher-based teams (TBTs) as defined by OLAC for the purpose of redesigning everyone s role to be primarily about improving the capacity of someone else. The leadership framework recommended by OLAC serves to As a superintendent you have to be willing to check your ego at the door because you re not going to be the keeper of the initiatives. It s synergistic, it s an entire team process that s a makeup of your cabinet, your management, your teachers, even parents and students. Michael Tefs, Superintendent Who How Who District/Building Leadership Teams State Diagnostic Teams State Support Teams Educational Service Centers Regional Managers Single Point of Contact How is involved? do these teams work in districts and schools? Review data Gather evidence of implementation and impact Revised November 2008 Ohio Improvement Process STAGE 1 Identify Critical Needs of Districts and Schools STAGE 4 Evaluate the Improvement Process distribute key leadership functions, align and focus the work across the system, and hold adults at all levels accountable for improving instructional practice and student achievement. As an OIP partner district, Wooster s first step, then, was to establish its district leadership team (DLT), and that team had to be comprised of more than the cabinetlevel membership common in many districts. You get one chance to make a first impression with OIP, and the development of that DLT is absolutely crucial. If this would ve been a DLT of central office staff and principals, we would not be where we are today. Having the union president and the union grievance chairperson on our DLT was strategic and incredibly beneficial, stated Tefs. Among Wooster s DLT members were selected teachers and the principal from each school, teacher association president and first-grade teacher Peter Larrousse, central office staff such as the director of pupil services, and other personnel from across the district. STAGE 2 Develop a Focused Plan 5 STAGE Implement and Monitor the Focused Plan Who is involved? District/Building Leadership Teams State Diagnostic Teams State Support Teams Educational Service Centers How Work with leadership to develop research based strategies and action steps focused on critical needs identified in stage 1. Who is involved? District/Building Leadership Teams Teacher Based Teams Regional Service Providers External Vendors Higher Education How do these teams work in districts and schools? do these teams work in districts and schools? Provide technical assistance and targeted professional development Leverage resources 2 Elmore, R. F. (2004). School reform from the inside out: Policy, practice and performance. Boston, MA: Harvard Education Press. 30

33 This cross-sectional team a requirement of the OIP was meant to ensure that data were being viewed from multiple perspectives and that resulting decisions made about the district s areas of greatest need were based on an honest account of how well and to what degree the district had engaged in essential practices on a district-wide basis. Once established, the DLT used the Ohio Decision Framework (DF), a web-based tool used at stage 1 of the OIP. As a decision-making aid, the DF is designed to assist districts in making informed decisions about where to spend their time, energy, and resources to make significant and substantial improvements in student performance. Each district, school, and community (i.e., charter) school in the state has a DF populated with its own data, which are organized in such a way as to allow leadership teams to answer essential questions and make decisions about their greatest needs. The DF is organized around four levels and is structured to help teams sort through and categorize data, prioritize areas of need, identify root causes of prioritized needs, and develop a more focused plan for impacting student learning. The biggest change for us as a district was in working with the data and using it to make decisions, said Rich Leone, formerly the principal of Edgewood Middle School and newly appointed as the district s Director of Secondary Education. Using the Decision Framework helped us look at data in a very different way, versus just having a theory or an opinion of what was happening with students, he added. The DF tool presents state assessment trend data for all tested children (not only those counted for accountability purposes) for each content area in three ways: by grade level, by building level, and by disaggregated student group. Teams review the data, discuss what an acceptable level of proficiency should be, and make decisions about which areas are areas of high concern. Tefs concurs with Leone, explaining if I heard it once I heard it many times it was powerful for the team to look at district-wide data, rather than only having buildings look at their own building-level data. That district-wide view was essential in moving toward collective ownership for the work of the district and for helping us identify the priority areas that we needed to tackle together, he added. Our Performance Index Score Three Year Calculation Trend Elementary School (Gr. PreK-6) Our Performance Index Score Three Year Calculation Trend Middle School (Gr. 7-8) Our Performance Index Score Three Year Calculation Trend High School (Gr. 9-12)

34 The focus on effective data use doesn t stop with the identification of needs. That s only one necessary part of the process. According to Karen Arbogast, principal of Wayne Elementary School and Title I coordinator for the district, structures have been put in place to support the common use of multiple types of data. We ve established some consistent protocols and the beginning, middle, and end-year assessment must-have data collection pieces for reading and math and, for the first time, we re looking at data that are consistent across the district, she explained. This allows the DLT, BLTs, and TBTs to talk about the same data and use these data to make better instructional decisions, said Arbogast. Better instructional decisions are paying off. For example, Wooster s performance index (PI) score a measure of growth based on a weighted average that includes grades 3-8 and 10 for all tested subjects, and untested children shows improvement across Test Grade 10th Test Grade 7th Wooster City Schools Ohio Graduation Tests in Reading & Math: High School Level Test Subject Wooster City Schools Ohio Achievement Assessments in Reading & Math: Middle School Level Test Subject % Proficient % Proficient % Proficient % Proficient % Proficient Non-IEP IEP Non-IEP IEP Non-IEP IEP Reading Math > Reading > > th Math > > % proficient denotes scores at the proficient level or above % Proficient Non-IEP IEP Non-IEP IEP Non-IEP IEP Reading Math Reading th Math % proficient denotes scores at the proficient level or above elementary, middle school, and high school, with the greatest gains at the middle school level. A review of and state assessment data for the district and each elementary building shows significant gains in the majority of buildings and an overall improvement across the district as compared to the state average. Further, an examination of Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA) and Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) results in reading and math for students with and without disabilities show significant improvement across many tested grades. While gaps still exist, the district has made substantial gains in the percent of students who scored proficient or above in areas such as 8th-grade reading (from 35.1% in to 64.3% in ) and 10th grade reading (from 34% in to almost 60% in ). Test Grade 3rd 4th 5th Wooster City Schools Ohio Achievement Assessments in Reading & Math: Elementary School Level Test Subject % Proficient % Proficient % Proficient Non-IEP IEP Non-IEP IEP Non-IEP IEP Reading Math Reading Math Reading Math Reading > th Math % proficient denotes scores at the proficient level or above Finally, data provided by the state that rank districts in terms of performance indicates that WCSD had the highest poverty level of any Ohio district rated as Excellent with Distinction. We have never allowed poverty to be an excuse in the WCSD, said Tefs. Focus Your Goals. While none of Wooster s schools is in school improvement status, the district has chosen to stay the course in using the OIP as its school improvement mechanism. Being focused is a 32

35 What Matters Most: Key Practices Guide Key Practice 1: Use Data Well While districts, schools, and individual teachers use data and have been for some time now, there has been too much emphasis placed only on the performance of students on state assessments. While these data are important for strategic planning, they provide little ongoing guidance to teachers or administrators. Districts that have moved their numbers for all children have or are engaged in developing district-wide processes that allow for more collective use of relevant data to make smarter decisions, including the ongoing assessment of teaching and learning at the classroom, school, and district levels. These processes include the development, implementation, and ongoing use of teacher-developed formative assessments, and the use of grade-level/departmental/course, and vertical teams to collaboratively score these shared assessments and plan for shared instruction. They also include the use of building and district benchmark assessments. Fullan (2008) states that principals working directly with teachers in the use of data is more than twice as powerful as any other leadership dimension, and Leithwood and Jantzi (2008) found that the reliability for assessing student learning and district decision making was one critical characteristic of effective districts. State Role Education Agencies (including regional TA providers) Districts & their Schools Parents & Families Considerations For Increasing the Performance of Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement To what degree do state education agencies (SEAs): Use data to identify and respond to common needs related to student learning across areas (e.g., regions, zones, intermediate/cooperative service areas, districts) of the state? Establish clear expectations for effective data use across SEA offices and departments, facilitating coherence and reducing fragmentation in the services and/or supports provided to districts? Refine, redefine, or create new state systems of support focused on building the capacity of all districts in the state to improve instructional practice and student learning? Establish mechanisms for providing high-quality and consistent support - including facilitation and professional development - to all districts in the state in the effective use of data to improve the learning of all students and groups of students, such as students with disabilities? Provide tools/products/services that facilitate the effective use of data by all districts, schools, and teachers in improving instructional practice and student learning? Ensure that state initiatives are targeted to providing support to underperforming districts and, at the same time, are applicable to and used by all districts in the state to continually support higher levels of learning for all students? To what degree do districts and their schools: Establish clear expectations for effective data use at all levels of the system? Use data to identify district, building, and classroom needs, and establish goals and performance targets at the district and school level? Use data to measure the degree of implementation of strategies/actions, including professional development, to reach district/school-identified goals? Use data to evaluate the effect of strategies/actions on student learning? Require teachers and teacher teams to use data to establish instructional priorities and inform instructional practice on an ongoing basis? Model and monitor the use of data to inform instructional decisions? Provide support at all levels in the effective use of data to facilitate higher levels of learning for all students and groups of students, such as students with disabilities? To what degree are parents/families empowered to: Provide relevant information and feedback to district/school personnel on multiple dimensions (e.g., academic, physical, social-emotional) of their child s progress and challenges? Participate as members of the district or school leadership/data team? Understand the importance of grade-level expectations in core content areas (e.g., reading, math)? Understand the implications of how their child s district/school/teacher(s) assesses what their child is learning and the level of learning? Work with the district/school/teacher(s) to collect data on their child s performance in designated areas? Moving Your Numbers 1

36 What Matters Most: Key Practices Guide Key Practice 2: Focus Your Goals When asked to describe the new initiatives undertaken in the last year or two, most teachers and administrators would list a litany of initiatives, often disconnected. If asked, What are the district or school improvement initiatives? most teachers and administrators often cannot articulate them. Reeves (2006) referred to this problem as initiative fatigue, while Fullan (2008) calls this repetitive change syndrome. If teachers, schools, and districts are to make improvement then they must be allowed and encouraged to focus on a few critical things well. As Patterson, et al. (2008) notes, a few behaviors can drive a lot of change Enormous influence comes from focusing on just a few vital behaviors. Leithwood and Jantzi (2008) recommend focusing the goals on student learning through the use of specific forms of instruction. They also recommend that the strategies be targeted on specific areas of low performance and phased in over time. Robinson (2008) identifies goal setting as one of the most critical school leadership responsibilities. State Role Education Agencies (including regional TA providers) Districts & their Schools Parents & Families Considerations For Increasing the Performance of Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement To what degree do state education agencies (SEAs): Focus and align their collective work to effectively support all districts, schools, and teachers in improving instructional practice and student learning? Establish common goals that require offices and departments across the SEA to work together to build the capacity of all districts, schools, and teachers in the state? Provide tools, products, and/or services that facilitate focused goal setting by all districts, schools, and teacher teams in improving instructional practice and student learning? Provide tools, products, and/or services that facilitate the development of coherent district and school plans that are useful in helping all districts, schools, and teacher teams to improve instructional practice and student learning? Establish mechanisms for providing high-quality and consistent support - including facilitation and professional development - to all districts in the state in developing a limited number of focused goals directly related to district-identified needs in the area of instruction and student learning? To what degree do districts and their schools: Use a data-driven needs assessment to develop a limited number of focused goals, and measureable strategies and actions, directly related to addressing the district s greatest needs related to instruction and achievement? Reflect in district goals that the core work and priority of the district is to improve teaching and learning? Ensure that all schools in the district align their work with district-established goals and strategies? Identify goal setting as an important leadership responsibility? Develop a single coherent district plan to reach district goals and require that each school develops a building plan aligned to district goals? Make intentional decisions to align resources (fiscal, material, personnel) across the district to meet district-wide goals? Screen, interview, select, and provide ongoing support to staff based on district-wide goals? Engage the larger community, including board members, in establishing and sustaining a focus on district-wide goals for improving instruction and student learning? To what degree are parents/families empowered to: Contribute to the identification of focused district goals for improving instruction and achievement? Support the district in reaching district-wide goals? Participate in activities related to school-level strategies designed to reach district goals? Understand the relationship between their child s classroom instruction and school-level strategies designed to reach district goals? Offer feedback to school and district officials on the relevance of district goals and school-level strategies in meeting their child s instructional needs? Moving Your Numbers 2

37 What Matters Most: Key Practices Guide Key Practice 3: Select and Implement Shared Instructional Practices Over the last several decades the research on effective instructional practices has demonstrated that not all instructional strategies are equal (See Marzano et. al., 2001). A recent synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses provides clear guidance in this area (Hattie, 2009). While most educators understand these findings, school districts have had limited success at implementing them. Both Leithwood and Jantzi (2008), and Fullan (2008) recommend focusing on specific effective instructional practices as a part of the district s improvement process. Fullan (2008) says we need relentless consistency in the use of effective non-negotiable practices. State Role Education Agencies (including regional TA providers) Districts & their Schools Parents & Families Considerations For Increasing the Performance of Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement To what degree do state education agencies (SEAs): Make their primary role be about helping all school districts in their state improve the quality of instruction provided to all students? Take steps to continually reduce fragmentation across SEA offices and departments by requiring shared, crossagency work intentionally designed to increase the capacity of all districts to improve instructional practice and student learning? Establish a statewide system of support intentionally designed to provide consistent, high-quality technical assistance to all districts in the state to improve instructional practice and student learning? Evaluate the degree to which SEA actions are affecting district performance? Recognize districts for system-wide improvement efforts that have a positive affect on all students and student groups? To what degree do districts and their schools: Establish and require the use of a district-wide standards-based curriculum aligned with district goals and priorities for instruction and student learning? Take steps to build a common language among all staff for what constitutes high-quality instructional practice? Ensure full access to challenging content aligned with rigorous standards for all students and student groups? Ensure that the use of prevention/intervention strategies is implemented consistently as part of, rather than separate from, the district s instructional program? Require the use of ongoing assessment and progress monitoring to inform instruction at the district, school, and teacher-team level? Provide for the system-wide use of collaboratively developed common classroom formative assessment as part of the instructional process? Provide structured opportunities for schools to learn from each other, for principals to learn from each other, and for teachers to learn from each other? To what degree are parents/families empowered to: Support the delivery of instruction to their children in targeted areas? Assist in the implementation of prevention/intervention strategies to support the instructional process? Work with their child s teacher(s) in using common classroom formative assessment to gather and provide feedback on their child s level of understanding and application of content learned? Moving Your Numbers 3

38 What Matters Most: Key Practices Guide Key Practice 4: Implement Deeply Most of us can identify a whole host of initiatives that were undertaken with great fanfare but then implemented poorly. So the first step of any change initiative must begin with the realization that without consistent, rigorous follow through, there will be limited progress. As Bossidy and Charan (2002) have stated leadership without the discipline of execution is incomplete and ineffective (p. 34). All too often we achieve limited success and blame this on the intervention, while the real problem is the lack of full implementation. Reeves (2006) documents the fact that we should not expect to achieve the outcomes identified in the research until we reach a 90% implementation level. State Role Education Agencies (including regional TA providers) Considerations For Increasing the Performance of Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement To what degree do state education agencies (SEAs): Limit the number of requirements to which districts must respond? Support school districts to identify a limited number of goals for focusing all work, rather than multiple goals that are specific to initiatives, programs, or funding sources? Ensure that all SEA initiatives soliciting district involvement require responding districts to align proposed work with district-identified goals, rather than identify new or different goals? Provide tools, products, and/or services that support districts in fully implementing identified instructional strategies? Districts & their Schools Parents & Families To what degree do districts and their schools: Require that identified instructional strategies chosen for improvement are implemented in every building and in every classroom across the district? Define what full implementation of identified instructional strategies chosen for improvement looks like? Require the use of aligned structures (i.e., teacher-based teams, school-level teams, district-level teams) that support shared implementation of focused instructional strategies? Hold staff at all levels accountable for following through on focused instructional strategies, while providing them with multiple opportunities for practice and support? Set expectations for the direct involvement of administrators (superintendents, principals) in ensuring that focused instructional practices are being implemented at a high level? Ensure that professional development is directly related to the identified instructional practices chosen for improvement? Actively maintain a focus on improving instructional practice and student learning? To what degree are parents/families empowered to: Participate in the implementation of focused instructional practices? Understand the need for full implementation of focused instructional practices? Understand what full implementation of focused instructional practices looks like? Gauge their child s performance in response to teachers implementation of focused instructional practices? Moving Your Numbers 4

39 What Matters Most: Key Practices Guide Key Practice 5: Monitor and Provide Feedback and Support Even if we are successful in our implementation there must be a system in place to provide feedback. To develop the system we must first be clear about defining what the practices look like when they are being implemented well. This description can take the form of a rubric, checklist, or protocol, but it must clearly describe what the behavior looks like when it s being done well. Once these indicators are defined, there needs to be a monitoring and reporting schedule that informs everyone in the system as to the progress being made. The collection and reporting of these data serve to provide a feedback loop to the staff on the overall implementation level of the strategies and is described by Reeves (2006) as an inquiry process that is the most critical component of district and school continuous improvement. The second component includes the implementation of student progress indicators that have been collaboratively developed and scored by the staff. State Role Education Agencies (including regional TA providers) Considerations For Increasing the Performance of Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement To what degree do state education agencies (SEAs): Support and help districts to understand the importance of and relationship between monitoring for improvement and monitoring for compliance? Support school districts in designing and using formative indicators and protocols/procedures for measuring district-wide implementation of focused improvement strategies and the effect of such implementation on student learning? Provide tools, products, and/or services that support districts in monitoring the degree of implementation and its effects on student learning? Provide tools, products, and/or services that support districts in providing feedback and differentiated support to schools and school-level teams and to teachers and teacher teams? Districts & their Schools Parents & Families To what degree do districts and their schools: Use a set of district-identified formative indicators for measuring district-wide implementation of focused improvement strategies and the effect of such implementation on student learning? Use a consistent set of protocols/procedures for measuring district-wide implementation of focused improvement strategies and the effect of such implementation on student learning? Monitor the degree of implementation of focused improvement strategies across the system? Monitor the progress of students, and examine where and why students may be struggling? Require central office personnel to actively monitor and provide feedback to principals and school-level teams on the implementation of focused instructional practices? Require principals to actively monitor and provide feedback to teachers and teacher teams on the implementation of focused instructional practices? Provide differentiated support, as needed, to schools and teachers in the implementation of focused instructional strategies? Measure the effectiveness of feedback and/or differentiated support provided to schools and teachers? To what degree are parents/families empowered to: Provide feedback to the school or teacher(s) on their child s progress in relation to focused instructional strategies? Work with the school or teacher(s) to monitor the implementation of focused instructional strategies and the effect of that implementation on their child s progress and learning? Moving Your Numbers 5

40 What Matters Most: Key Practices Guide Key Practice 6: Inquire and Learn While data help us prioritize and gauge progress, data-driven decision-making begins by asking fundamental questions (Reeves, 2002). At the grade-level, department, course, building, and district level, we need to be able to reflect on our collective and individual practice, answer important questions, and learn from the work we re doing. Important questions for teams to ask to support systems learning include the following: Where are the practices being implemented well? Why are they being successful? Where are the practices not being implemented well? Why are they being unsuccessful? State Role Education Agencies (including regional TA providers) Considerations For Increasing the Performance of Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Improvement To what degree do state education agencies (SEAs): Evaluate SEA progress in supporting all districts to make improvements in adult professional practice and student learning? Provide opportunities for collective reflection and learning among SEA staff? Provide tools, products, and/or services that support districts in evaluating the degree of implementation of focused instructional strategies and its effects on changes in adult professional practice and student learning? Recognize districts for continuous improvement in the learning of all students and student groups? Districts & their Schools To what degree do districts and their schools: Foster and communicate a sense of urgency for continuous improvement and positive change in student learning? Engage everyone in continually evaluating the effect of the district s focused instructional practices on district and school performance, and student learning? Establish a decision-making process that supports shared learning across and among central office personnel, school personnel, and teacher team members? Support principals in actively participating in collegial discussions around instruction and its effects on student learning? Require principals to provide active oversight and coordination of the instructional program? Provide resources to support district-wide professional learning focused on improving instructional practice and student learning? Have established parameters for making decisions about needed changes to the district s improvement strategies? Parents & Families To what degree are parents/families empowered to: Provide information to the district, school, or teacher(s) about what is/is not working to improve their child s learning? Contribute to evaluating the degree to which focused instructional strategies have been implemented and districtidentified goals have been met? Participate in district or school professional learning opportunities? Moving Your Numbers 6

41 key part of Wooster s improvement strategy, explained Tefs. The OIP, with its connection to the work of OLAC, is so much more comprehensive and far less fragmented than other improvement models we ve explored, he added. Once teams complete the first stage of the OIP using the DF tool, a very focused and usable needs assessment is produced and teams then use it to identify a limited number of district goals, strategies and actions. Moving from multiple goals and initiatives to three goals that are used to structure the work across the district is what Tefs calls weeding the garden. Leone explains that in addition to narrowing the number of things they do, they also look at how they do their work in a different way. We look at what we do daily in terms of the value add it will have in impacting student achievement, he said. Each of the district s three goals has no more than three strategies and a limited (no more than five) number of associated action steps. These steps along with sources of evidence for gauging progress, the groups or individuals responsible, and a three-year time line are detailed in the district s single plan, the OIP Implementation Plan. Each school in the district has a plan that provides for flexibility at the action step level, but that is written to meet district goals and strategies. WCSD s three goals state that, by 2012, the district will: u Implement a sustainable instructional process that will positively impact student achievement u Increase performance on state standardized reading assessment by 3% annually u Increase performance on state standardized math assessment by 5% annually Wooster City School District (WCSD) OIP Implementation Plan GOAL 2 Goal #2: By 2012, all PreK-12 students will increase performance on state standardized reading assessments by 3% annually. Strategies & Action Steps 2A. Implement a district-wide approach to balanced literacy Action Steps Develop a district-wide common understanding of balanced literacy Establish expectations of roles and responsibilities of staff in delivering a balanced literacy framework Provide initial and ongoing embedded PD for district literacy framework Ensure the use of the board-adopted literacy-based framework Adult Implementation 100% of teachers will incorporate the district balanced literacy framework within instruction Indicators Student Achievement 100% of students will demonstrate improved achievement in reading and writing on common formative assessments 2B. Develop and implement a district-wide approach to pre- and post-common assessments for reading to guide instruction and intervention Action Steps Ensure a district-wide common understanding of the use of reading assessments in instruction Ensure that all teachers use identified common reading assessments and scoring rubrics, and interpret results of assessments to guide instruction Develop a schedule and time line for test administration and reporting Design and implement record-keeping systems to monitor student progress by substrand 2C. Use data-driven decisions to target appropriate reading instruction and intervention for students with disabilities, minority students, LEP students, and students who are economically disadvantaged Action Steps Identify and implement district-wide scientifically research-based instructional practices Develop a systematic approach to ongoing data analysis, interpretation and utilization over time Outline and implement an intervention plan Expand the use of technology as an efficient means to make data-driven decisions 100% of teachers will analyze and interpret the results of the assessment, and formulate and implement an instructional plan 100% of teachers will use scientifically-based research instructional strategies and interventions to meet identified needs Each student will demonstrate improvement on achievement as measured by reading post assessments 100% of students in identified subgroups will demonstrate improved achievement in reading 33

42 Unified Focus, Decentralized Roles I think the biggest culture shift has been the changing role of the Central Office, from one that controlled the work to a decentralized approach that works with and supports the implementation of shared practices in every school, said Tefs. A common practice for many districts involved central office analyzing data by department and presenting those data to school principals. Now, through the use of the OIP and embedded tools, such as the DF, teachers are engaged from the bottom up in analyzing data for instructional improvement. But that engagement would not have happened without intentional action on the part of the district. 3 Select and Implement Shared Instructional Practices. The greatest benefit of the change in culture has been the ability to form the BLTs and really empower teachers to make and then hold each other accountable for building priorities, said Arbogast. Wooster s DLT meets every other month, while each school s BLT meets monthly and TBTs meet weekly. And, while district leadership is quick to point out that they re still not there yet, they have taken concrete steps through the establishment of aligned team structures to define and implement shared instructional practices. In fact, the Wooster Board of Education felt so strongly about the need to focus district work on instruction and achievement that it restructured the key functions of the superintendent within the Superintendent/CEO Job Description to emphasize such elements as: u Placing a primary focus on improving instruction and enhancing student learning; u Leading the creation of instructional systems designed for high student achievement; u Expecting, modeling, and supporting the effective use of data; u Setting expectations for effective data-based decision making at all levels of the system; u Requiring the use of an established curriculum; u Creating and executing a coherent plan with a limited, achievable number of goals and objectives; and u Implementing and monitoring the district plan. Other foundational changes that have contributed to the district s capacity for shared work include the development of a K-12 Literacy Framework, which addresses the reading needs of all students through quality instruction in the classroom and embeds short- and long-term intervention strategies; and the development of a standardsbased report card at the elementary and middle school levels. The new report card, developed to better communicate the progress each child was making toward meeting performance-based standards, was implemented in 39 classrooms across six elementary schools during the school year. All elementary-aged children will receive the report card during the school year. The district literacy framework is a key part of the district s plan to implement a districtwide approach to balanced literacy (Goal 2, Strategy 2A). Teachers use specific quarterly 3rd Quarter Rubric Grade 6 Language Arts Rubric Third Quarter Reading Standard Determine the meaning of unknown words by using context clues and concepts Uses a variety of strategies (e.g. pictures, context clues, word origins, word analysis) to determine the meaning of unknown words less than 7 out of 10 times Uses a variety of strategies (e.g. pictures, context clues, word origins, word analysis) to determine the meaning of unknown words 7-8 out of 10 times Uses a variety of strategies (e.g., pictures, context clues, word origins, word analysis) to determine the meaning of unknown words 9 out of 10 times 3 See Mac Iver, M.A., & Farley, E. (2003). Bringing the district back in: The role of the central office in improving instruction and student achievement. Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University. 34

43 learning targets aligned with academic content standards and the district framework (in the case of reading and writing) that are measured with a rubric-based system to check for proficiency. In reading, the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessment is administered three times a year through 6th grade, while the middle school uses the Star assessment, which provides grade- and lexile-level indicators on progress. In math, a mid-year and end-of-year assessment that is part of the Everyday Math program is used to assess student progress. In all content areas, the development of common assessments to be used by groups of teachers is continuing as the district gets better at implementing high functioning TBTs. Having the formative assessments and then the conversations that take place at grade level meetings about what s being taught and how it s being taught is priceless, said Tefs. Intervention as Part of Instruction. Another critical element of the district s work to improve reading and writing across all student groups involves the integration of Universal Education: Ohio Study on Students with Disabilities Common Themes Focus on Instructional Practice and Student Learning Access to general curriculum/grade-level content Using research-based practices Leadership Starts at the district level and uses data to address issues Principals and teachers are knowledgeable about data and take ownership for learning of their students Intentional Culture Shift From old SE model to shared responsibility (they re all our kids) Eliminating a culture of isolation no one works in isolation Collaboration Structures in place for adults to talk about data and inform instruction Assessment & Curriculum Use of common formative assessment Focus on aligned curriculum, use of power standards, pacing guides, curriculum calendars and relationship to formative assessment Source: Silverman, S.K., Hazelwood, C., & Cronin, P. (2009). Universal Education: Principles and Practices for Advancing Achievement of Students with Disabilities selected interventions as part of overall instruction. Intervention specialists (Ohio s term for special education teachers) are regular members of all leadership teams at the district, building, and teacher team level and the district promotes the use of co-teaching models that allow struggling students to receive in-class support and additional instruction as needed. At Edgewood Middle School, an intervention specialist chairs the BLT. In Wooster s model, intervention is something that is provided to students above and beyond the core instructional program, not in lieu of it. Rather than view its response to intervention (RtI) work as a separate initiative, the DLT has used it as another leverage point to ensure that the individual needs of all children are being met as part of OIP implementation. We re not trying to build a silo; we are making sure that students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, and other high-need children are getting what they need, explained Elaine Karp, Director of Pupil Services. Prior to Karp s arrival, WCSD had six different directors of pupil services in six years. We had absolutely no continuity. Now we have consistency and the whole system is working so much more fluidly and coherently, explained Tefs. That continuity in effective data use at all levels and for all groups of children is key. Our teacher teams look at subgroup data as part of the process, not only for IEP kids, but for other kids such as those who are economically disadvantaged. Our teachers have a good awareness of those data and are looking at how kids performed and what needs to be done instructionally to help each child achieve, explained Leone. I think all children benefit from the way the data are used, he said. Arbogast agrees, explaining that the TBT review of data across subgroups ensures that all children are part of the conversation. We re pulling those data apart to see who s at, below, or above grade level, and continuously revamping instruction and that has 35

44 led to a much more center-based approach in math and a more leveled grouping approach in reading, she said. We used to think our role was to make sure regular ed teachers knew who was in their rooms so they could make the right modifications. Now, we know our role is to provide time for all teachers to work together to improve instruction for all students and, as a part of that process, to understand what interventions have been successful or unsuccessful and what needs to change instructionally to support student learning, said Tefs. Two years ago, the Ohio Department of Education interviewed about 30 districts that showed good progress for the subgroup of children with disabilities to learn what factors most contributed to their success. In every case, the factors cited by districts included leadership for changing the way in which staff across the district talked about their role in educating all children, away from a focus on regular or special education to a focus on universal education for all children. This philosophical shift is evident in WCSD. There is not one spot like an Office of Accountability or a Curriculum Department that is responsible for student success. Because of our leadership team structure, I could say today it s the BLT, DLT and in another year all TBTs that are collectively accountable for the success of every student, stated Tefs. Facilitation Integral to Implementation The WCSD team credits the improvements they ve made, in part, to the structures and protocols (e.g., TBT Rubric, step 3) that have fostered shared expectations and helped to change conversations among teachers. And, they credit the external facilitators assigned from the State Support Team (SST) 9 operated by the Stark County Educational Service Center (ESC) as being essential in helping the district put these pieces in place. Beginning in 2008, regional technical assistance providers from across Ohio were Ohio TBT 5-Step Implementation Rubric STEPS ADVANCED PROFICIENT BASIC GOALS STEP 3: Establish shared expectations for implementing specific effective changes in the classroom o Students can explain their own individual goals, what they know and can do, and what strategies they are using to reach their goals. o Team members establish shared expectations for implementing specific instructional changes in classroom and develop plans collaboratively o Strategies are research-based and impact multiple content areas o Strategies are prioritized for impact on student achievement o Differentiating to meet individual student needs is evident o Team members agree on instructional time for strategy implementation and post-assessment standards Source: Ohio State Support Team 9 o Classrooms have goals: Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Timely o Team members discuss shared instructional changes but do not always agree on consistent implementation o Discussed strategies are research based o Strategies are prioritized for impact on student achievement o Strategy instruction is observed o Teachers usually model strategies o Established goals are academic or behavioral but may not be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, or timely o Goals are made public to students o Strategies are identified but are not identified as significantly impacting student achievement o Teachers introduce strategies but do not model instructional strategies with consistency 36

45 assigned to serve as external facilitators to partner districts, and to other districts in improvement status. The role of the facilitator was to work with/alongside the district, helping it to establish or refine leadership teams at the district, building, and teacher team levels; look at and use their data in more meaningful ways; identify a limited number of goals, strategies, and actions; put monitoring and evaluation systems in place for gauging the degree of implementation and its effects on student learning; and ultimately building the capacity of the district to make and sustain improvements in student learning. Facilitators served the critical role of being part of but separate from the district team and, as such, were in a unique position to ask the tough questions, probe and redirect, and push back as needed. Their role in building district capacity involved the development of internal facilitators, usually central office personnel who could foster inquiry and learning across the district. You can t run this process without an external facilitator. The role they played allowed me as superintendent to engage in the process, stated Tefs. When the problem became the focus of our conversations, our facilitator could move us forward. She was integral to our capacity to improve, he added. WCSD initially received support from ESC consultant Dr. Sue Long who had previously worked as Akron City Schools deputy superintendent. According to Long, even though teaching and learning is the business of school districts, I don t think we ve done a good job talking about how we get people from different levels and different perspectives talking about the work and having a few focused goals that we implement deeply and across the district to make a difference and leverage a change. When Long retired, WCSD received support from SST 9 consultant and former principal Peg Deibel, who also serves as one of the state s four regional quadrant leads, providing support to other ESC, district, and school personnel in northeast Ohio. The district was also supported by SST consultant Laurie Langenfeld, who worked in tandem with Deibel on the integration of RtI strategies into the work of TBTs. Langenfeld then used the feedback she received from WCSD to develop an RtI Core Team Training Series for districts in the Stark County ESC region. Monitor and Provide Feedback and Support. After three years of OIP implementation, the district is well on its way to not only having high functioning teams at every level, but to using the work of the teams to increase the consistency in and quality of what gets taught at each level. Deibel and Superintendent Tefs are now spending much of their time helping to systematize the work of TBTs. At the same time, they re ensuring that relevant instructional data generated by the teams are being used by the BLT and the DLT on an ongoing basis to evaluate whether district-wide strategies and actions are (1) being fully implemented as designed, and (2) having the desired effect on student learning. 37

46 A five-step rubric the Ohio TBT 5-Step Process Implementation Rubric is being used to support this work, which involves: 1. Collecting and charting data and results; 2. Analyzing student work specific to the data; 3. Establishing shared expectations for implementing specific effective changes in the classroom; 4. Implementing changes consistently across all classrooms; and 5. Collecting, charting, and analyzing post data, and evaluating impact on student learning. In addition to evaluating the impact that strategies and actions are having on student learning, the effectiveness of the DLT and BLTs are evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure that improvements are made on a continuing basis. All teams have responded to the DLT Effectiveness Survey and BLT Effectiveness Survey providing feedback about the degree to which they We re getting better at focusing all of our conversations, including typical staff meetings, on reviewing the data and making decisions. We ve found more efficient ways to take care of operational business so we can spend our time on instruction. believe indicators of effective leadership teams are being met. One of our biggest successes has involved taking six elementary schools and making them more alike than different in terms of the quality and consistency of instruction being provided to all kids, said Tefs. The survey data from our teams is phenomenal, he added. Item Name SEL % 1. Student understood learning objective and relevance of lesson 2. Student somewhat understood learning objective and relevance of lesson 3. Student could not state learning objective or relevance 24% 9% 3% 73% Item Name SEL % 1. Observed: Teacher Modeling 41 33% 2. Observed: Students working together 27 22% 3. Observed: Differentiated lessons for different groups 90 73% 29 24% 4 3% Total % Learning Objectives are stated by the student 10 8% 4. Observed: Independent Practice 35 28% 5. Not Observed 11 9% Total % Gradual Release Model Karen Arbogast, Principal, Wayne Elementary School Intentional Resource Use and PD. In real estate, they say location, location, location, quipped Tefs. In school improvement, it s called time, time, time! There s not a better place to be than to watch our teams work, but I wish I could give them more time, he said. But, time means money. WCSD, along with many other districts in the state, is experiencing an unparalleled budget shortfall. Ohio s newly released 28% 8% 22% 33% 38

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